SAO PAULO — Brazil will launch a national investigation into soccer match-fixing and the probe could have “international repercussions,” Justice Minister Flavio Dino said Wednesday.
The South American country’s soccer confederation said it had requested the government open the new probe. Dino’s announcement followed the decisions by several top-flight Brazilian clubs to suspend a handful of players as part of a state investigation.
Brazil’s federal police will open a probe “due to the evidence of match-fixing in sports events, with inter-state and international repercussions,” Dino said in a statement on Twitter.
Earlier, Athletico said on its social media channels that 20-year-old left back Pedrinho and 22-year-old midfielder Bryan Garcia had been suspended “preemptively” until the end of the investigation by prosecutors in the state of Goias.
Cruzeiro, Fluminense, and America made the same decisions about 29-year-old midfielder Richard, 24-year-old defender Vitor Mendes, and 37-year-old right-back Nino Paraiba, respectively.
None of players have responded to a request for comment from The Associated Press. They also haven’t commented on social media.
Brazilian media raised concerns about the performances of all five players in matches from the 2022 season, and added they could be targets of the “Maximum Penalty” probe that began in February.
Internacional said in a statement that midfielder Mauricio would not play against Athletico in a Brazilian Serie A match later on Wednesday after local media linked him to the scandal. The club from Porto Alegre also said it trusts the player, who denied any wrongdoing, and added that he will continue in its squad.
Prosecutors did not confirm to the AP that these players are under investigation.
But state prosecutors reported in a statement that 16 people will stand trial in the case, including seven other players.
One of the players on that list, Santos defender Eduardo Bauermann, was suspended by his club on Tuesday. TV Globo published several conversations during which the player allegedly admits involvement in the scheme.
The AP had access to the case against Bauermann and other players. The prosecutors’ evidence alleges that the Santos defender not only exchanged text messages offering up match-fixing but also suggested in November he could bring in two of his teammates to help the scheme.
The state probe initially targeted matches from last season in Brazil’s top flight but has expanded into second-division matches. Prosecutors said some of the athletes were paid between 50,000 and 100,000 Brazilian reals ($10,000 to $20,000) to get booked or give penalties to their rivals.
The Brazilian soccer confederation (CBF) said in a statement it had asked the government to investigate so it can “centralize all the information about the cases under investigation.”
The soccer body added “there is no possibility” that the nation’s top-flight division would be suspended, arguing that it “is also a victim of those possible criminal acts,” and urging that “the punishment of athletes and other members of the fraudulent scheme takes place in vehement fashion.”
“I am working with FIFA and other international bodies, besides clubs and Brazilian federations, with the intent of fighting every kind of crime, fraud or wrongdoing in soccer,” CBF chairman Ednaldo Rodrigues said in the statement. “I defend the preemptive suspension (of players) based on concrete suspicions and even the ban from sport in proven cases.”