São Paulo, Brazil – An investigation opened by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the State of Goiás has shaken the top echelons of Brazilian soccer in recent days. According to prosecutors, there is strong evidence that at least six matches played last year in the top division of Brazilian soccer were manipulated by a group of online gamblers in agreement with athletes.
According to the investigations, the recruited players were offered amounts ranging from R$ 70,000 (USD $14,000) to R$ 100,000 (USD $20,000) to participate in the scheme. They were told to commit a certain number of fouls per game, receive yellow or red cards deliberately, give corners to the opposing team, give away penalties, and even actively contribute to the defeat of their own teams. Having paid off the athletes, the members of the criminal group bet high values on these specific results in order to obtain significant profits.
The matches under investigation are Santos x Avaí (11/5/2022), Red Bull Bragantino vs América Mineiro (11/5/2022), Goiás vs Juventude (11/5/2022), Cuiabá vs Palmeiras (11/5/2022), Santos vs Botafogo (11/10/2022) and Juventude vs Palmeiras (9/10/2022). Another five matches from 2023, from regional championships in the states of Goiás, Rio Grande do Sul, Mato Grosso, and São Paulo, are also under investigation.
Three gamblers who were part of the criminal group have been arrested, and nine professional players suspected of participating in the fraud are being investigated.
The investigations that led to this operation began at the end of last year when the player Romário, from Vila Nova, allegedly agreed to receive R$ 150,000 (USD $30,000) to give away a penalty in the match between Vila Nova and Sport, in the second division of the Brazilian Championship. He received an advance of R$ 10,000 (USD $2,000), and the remaining amount would be paid after the game. But, as Romário was not listed to participate in the match, he tried to recruit teammates to collaborate with the scheme and the case ended up leaking.
The electronic sports betting market has been operating legally in Brazil since 2018 through a decree signed by former President Michel Temer, authorizing the operation of online platforms. Annually, the sector generates about R$ 100 billion (USD $20 billion) in the country.