SÁB 22 DE JUNIO DE 2024 - 23:21hs.
Operation "Maximum Penalty”

Scandal in Brazilian football: 2022 Serie A and regional 2023 games are suspected of manipulation

A real bomb exploded in Brazilian football. In yet another phase of the Operation 'Maximum Penalty”, the 2022 Série A Brasileirão was placed under suspicion of match-fixing. According to investigations, around six top division games may have been involved in the huge scheme. Matches from Palmeiras, Santos and Botafogo are under suspicion.

This Tuesday (18), the Public Ministry of Goiás (MP-GO) has been carrying out a huge operation throughout the country. According to information on the "GE" website, the MP-GO has three preventive arrest warrants and 20 search and seizure warrants to fulfill in six states and 16 cities. The list of Serie A games involved in the scheme has yet to be revealed.

In a press conference, the Ministry disclosed that six matches of the 2022 Brazilian Championship are under the target of Operation "Maximum Penalty", which investigates match-fixing in Brazilian football.

According to information released by promoter Fernando Cesconetto, from the Public Ministry of Goiás, the amounts varied between R$50,000 (US$ 10,000) and R$60,000 (US$ 12,100) for each athlete. The names were not revealed and no athlete has been arrested so far. In addition, the participation of other players is not ruled out.

The new phase of the operation, launched this Tuesday (18), served three arrest warrants and 20 search and seizure warrants in 16 cities in six states: Bragança Paulista, Guarulhos, Presidente Venceslau, Santana de Parnaíba, Santo André, Santos, São Paulo and Taubaté (SP); Rio de Janeiro - RJ); Recife PE); Erechim, Pelotas and Santa Maria (RS); Chapecó and Tubarão (SC); and Goianira (GO).

During the execution of the warrants, an athlete from Juventude confirmed to the prosecutors that he was harassed to receive a yellow card in another game, on September 10, that he was not on the initial list of the Public Ministry.

The number of games in the current investigation equals the 11 matches that were annulled by the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) in the 2005 Brasileirão due to the ‘Mafia do Apito’ (Whistle Mafia). All whistled by referee Edilson Pereira de Carvalho, directly involved in the scandal, were annulled and disputed again.

How the alleged scheme worked:

  • According to the investigation, the criminal group managed to manipulate results after bribing players.
  • Players received between R$ 50,000 (US$ 10,000) and R$ 100,000 (US$ 20,000) to carry out specific actions during matches, which were the reason for betting on specialized sites, in addition to being able to interfere in the final result of the game.
  • Example: players received proposals to score a penalty in the first half of a game. In parallel, a criminal involved in the scheme bet on one of the sites that that penalty would be committed by that player, and was paid for the successful bet.
  • If the players accepted, the “down payment” was made.
  • After the match, if the penalty had been taken, players would receive the remainder of the amount.

Manipulated games

According to the Goiás Public Ministry (MP-GO) through the Special Action Group to Combat Organized Crime (Gaeco) and the Institutional Security and Intelligence Coordination (CSI), the 11 suspicious games were as follows:

Brazilian championship

9/10/2022 – Palmeiras 2×1 Juventude (attempt to manipulate a Juventude athlete into taking a yellow card);

11/5/2022 – Santos 1×1 Avai (attempt to manipulate Santos athlete into taking a yellow card);

11/5/2022 – Red Bull Bragantino 1×4 América-MG (attempt to manipulate an athlete from Red Bull Bragantino to receive a yellow card);

11/5/2022 – Goiás 1×0 Juventude (attempt to manipulate two Juventude athletes to receive a yellow card);

11/6/2022 – Cuiabá 1×1 Palmeiras (attempt to manipulate an athlete from Cuiabá to receive a yellow card);

11/10/2022 – Botafogo 3×0 Santos (attempt to manipulate an athlete from Santos to receive a red card);

Paulista championship

8/2/2023 – Guarani 2×1 Portuguesa (attempt to manipulate the athlete to be punished with a yellow card);

Goiás Championship

2/12/2023 – Goiás 2×0 Goiânia (encouragement for Goiânia to have a partial defeat at the end of the first half, which ended 2-0);

Gaucho Championship

2/11/2023 – Esportivo 0x0 Novo Hamburgo (manipulation of an athlete from Novo Hamburgo committing a penalty; there was a penalty for Esportivo, who wasted the kick);

2/12/2023 – Caxias 3×1 São Luiz (manipulation for an athlete from São Luiz to commit a penalty; there was a penalty in favor of Caxias during the game);

Mato Grosso Championship

2/11/2023 – Luverdense 0x2 Operário de Várzea Grande (attempt to manipulate to guarantee a certain number of corners during the match).

Who are the players suspected of manipulation in the Brazilian and state championships?

The Public Ministry does not disclose names, but Victor Ramos, formerly of Vasco and Palmeiras, had his cell phone seized. The 33-year-old athlete was found at his home yesterday morning (18) in Chapecó, and taken to testify. However, he continues to train normally.

Kevin Joel Lomónaco, defender of Red Bull Bragantino is another suspect. Police officers from the Military Police Shock Battalion and the Special Action Group to Combat Organized Crime (Gaeco) served a search warrant at the athlete's home. The information was published by the newspaper Em Pauta.

According to globoesporte.com, left-back Igor Cariús, from Sport, and midfielder Gabriel Tota, formerly of Juventude and currently at Ypiranga-RS, are some of those investigated.

Still according to the MP of Goiás, the suspects come from different regions of Brazil. This Tuesday (18), were sought:

  • Goiás - 1 athlete investigated
  • Rio Grande do Sul - 3 athletes investigated
  • Santa Catarina - 2 athletes investigated
  • Rio de Janeiro - 1 investigated (non-athlete)
  • Pernambuco - 2 athletes investigated
  • São Paulo - 10 search and seizure warrants and 3 arrests

Have any football players been arrested?

No jailed players, only people involved in handling requests. There were three arrest warrants in São Paulo, but only for non-athletes.

Stun grenades were seized in an arrest warrant in São Paulo for firearms at another address, also in São Paulo. There was also an act of firearms without proper registration.
Athletes or recruiters may be indicted via the Fan Statute and may also be liable for the crime of money laundering, if applicable. According to the Fan Statute, the penalty varies from 2 to 6 years in prison.

What did players do to manipulate matches?

The athletes and suspects involved are being investigated for manipulation in the following ways: receiving yellow or red cards, committing a penalty, guaranteeing a partial defeat in the 1st half, number of corners, etc.

What did the clubs of the players involved say?

Chapecoense and Red Bull released notes on the investigated players.

"The club has zero tolerance for any attitude that could harm the suitability of the sport and go against the values and dignity of everyone who wears the colors of Red Bull Bragantino. We are available to the authorities during the investigation and will deal internally with the legal situation involving the athlete," said the team from Bragança.

"Regarding the ‘Maximum Penalty’ Operation and the fulfillment of the warrant related to it in Chapecó - involving a player from the club - the ‘alviverde’ association reinforces its support and, mainly, the confidence in the professional integrity of the athlete. In view of the investigations, the club highlights its commitment to fully collaborate with the authorities and offer all the support and information necessary in the investigation and clarification of the case."

What are the next steps of the investigation?

According to the MP of Goiás, now the authorities will gather the material collected in 6 states involved, with dozens of electronic devices seized, analyzing everything and conducting interrogations. After analyzing the evidence, then the next steps will be evaluated.

What the "Maximum Penalty" Operation investigates?

The investigation of the "Maximum Penalty" Operation points out that criminal groups convinced players, with proposals that went up to R$ 100,000 (US$ 20,000), to commit specific bids in matches and caused the profit of bettors on websites of the branch.

A co-opted player, for example, would have the "function" of committing a penalty, receiving a card or even collaborating to build the result of the match - usually a defeat for his team.

The first complaints heard by the operation came at the end of 2022, when midfielder Romário, then a Vila Nova (GO) player, accepted R$ 150,000 (US$ 30,200) to commit a penalty against Sport, in a match valid for Série B do Brasileiro.

At the time, the athlete pocketed R$ 10,000 (US$2,000) immediately and would only earn the rest if the plan worked. Romário, however, was not even included in the match, which spoiled the idea.

The story reached Hugo Jorge Bravo, president of the Goiás team and also a military policeman, who sought evidence and handed it over to the state Public Ministry. From then on, the "Maximum Penalty" Operation was created to investigate evidence and suspicions about the matter.

In the first complaint, there was suspicion of manipulation in three Serie B games, but the latest events led investigators to believe that the problem was nationwide and had happened in state championships and also in the Brazilian first division.

In addition to Romário, seven other players were denounced by the Public Ministry for participating in the match-making scheme: Joseph (Tombense), Mateusinho (former Sampaio Corrêa, today in Cuiabá), Gabriel Domingos (Vila Nova), Allan Godói (Sampaio Corrêa ), André Queixo (former Sampaio Corrêa, now with Ituano), Ygor Catatau (former Sampaio Corrêa, now with Sepahan, in Iran) and Paulo Sérgio (former Sampaio Corrêa, now with Operário-PR).

Source: g1 / ESPN / GMB