Police detained eight Montpellier handball players and several of their associates after the French national champion team’s match at Paris arena on Sunday as part of an investigation into suspected match-fixing, a police official said.
Nikola Karabatic, a two-time Olympic champion with the French national team who is considered one of the world’s top players, and his brother Luka were among those taken into custody after Sunday’s match against PSG, the official said.
The brothers were among “more than 10 people” held for questioning in the offices of the judicial police’s Central Service for Horseracing and Games in Nanterre, west of Paris, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation. The official declined to specify how many people were being held.
Montpellier has been accused of match-fixing after French media reported last week that several players had intentionally helped lose a match that their relatives and other associates had bet on. Montpellier was on track to win the national title when it lost to Cesson-Rennes 31-28 on May 12.
A team spokeswoman told The Associated Press that police spoke to some players after the match, but she declined to comment further.
Shortly after Sunday’s match ended in a 38-24 win for PSG, the 28-year-old Karabatic was interviewed by Canal Plus TV about the defeat but he walked away when asked to comment on the investigation. TV images showed Karabatic being led away from the Stade Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris by plain-clothes officers, and climbing into a car.
Reports last week said that eight Montpellier players in total are suspected of involvement, and that the bets in question totaled 5,000 euros. The police official told the AP that the total winnings amounted to more than 200,000 euros.
Montpellier president Remy Levy appeared to distance club management from the players targeted, saying in a statement last week that he “vigorously protests” the implication that the club itself may have been involved.
Joel Delplanque, president of the French Handball Federation, told BFMTV that he hoped the investigation would be carried out “in most serious and quick manner possible so that once and for all we will find out what happened – and who in fact was responsible for these anomalies we’ve now learned about.”