Conte investigated, Mauri arrested in Italy fix probe

ROME Mon May 28, 2012 7:47am EDT

Juventus' coach Antonio Conte (L) looks on after their Italian Cup final soccer match against Napoli at the Olympic stadium in Rome, May 20, 2012. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

Juventus' coach Antonio Conte (L) looks on after their Italian Cup final soccer match against Napoli at the Olympic stadium in Rome, May 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Giampiero Sposito

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ROME (Reuters) - Juventus coach Antonio Conte is under investigation and Lazio captain Stefano Mauri has been arrested as part of an Italian police probe into a widening match-fixing scandal, officials said on Monday.

Italy defender Domenico Criscito, left out of the squad for Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland which starts in less than two weeks, has also been targeted in the investigation.

Police visited the Coverciano training base where Italy are preparing for a friendly with Luxembourg on Tuesday.

Cremona prosecutor Roberto Di Martino said the raid only concerned Criscito, who plays for Russian top-flight club Zenit St Petersburg, and did not involve other players in the national team.

Criscito's agent was quoted by Gazzetta dello Sport's website as saying the defender was surprised by the allegations, which he denied.

Italy officials said all parties had agreed he would not go to Euro 2012 so he can clear his name.

Police in Cremona said they had made 19 arrests and were investigating Conte, who this month led Juve to Serie A championship glory for the first time since the club were stripped of the 2005 and 2006 titles.

He is being investigated on suspicion of sporting fraud and fraudulent association over allegations concerning a match between his previous club Siena and Novara in April 2011. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing involving Juve.

Monday's raids by around 280 police in 23 cities cast a further shadow over Italian soccer which has still not fully recovered from the 2006 "Calciopoli" match-fixing scandal which saw Juve stripped of the title and dumped into the second division.

Police arrested Mauri and former Genoa midfielder Omar Milanetto, now with Serie B side Padova.

All the arrests were in connection with fixtures last season between Lecce and Lazio, and Lazio and Genoa.

Di Martino said there was an "absolute superabundance" of evidence about the Lecce-Lazio match. He added gamblers appeared to win around two million euros ($2.50 million) on the game and paid 600,000 euros to bribe the players.

A police statement said five people were also arrested in Hungary on suspicion of involvement in an illegal international betting ring headed by Singaporean Tan Seet Eng who was arrested in December.

"LAST BET"

Conte's involvement in the investigation, following mounting media speculation he would be dragged in, was a big blow to Juve after a spectacular season when the team were unbeaten until they lost the Italian Cup final to Napoli on May 20.

The coach's lawyer Antonio De Rencis denied Conte, whose contract was renewed last week until 2015, was involved in match-fixing.

"Conte's reaction is one of someone who is completely outside this and determined to prove he has nothing to do with what has been alleged," the lawyer told Gazzetta dello Sport.

Monday's operation was part of "Last Bet", a wider investigation into match-fixing in Italian soccer which has already seen a number of arrests of current and former players.

Police said searches were carried out at the homes of a number of players, coaches and administrators of clubs in Serie A, Serie B and the lower division Lega Pro on suspicion of involvement in match-fixing on behalf of international criminal organizations.

In June last year, the Interior Ministry set up a special match-fixing task force in response to a number of high-profile cases.

Former Atalanta captain and Italy midfielder Cristiano Doni was banned for three-and-a-half years in August for his part in the 'Calcioscommesse' scandal involving Serie B matches last season.

Atalanta, promoted from Serie B, were deducted six points in the top flight this season as a result.

Former Lazio and Italy striker Giuseppe Signori was banned for five years and 15 other players were suspended for between one and five years for their part in the same scandal.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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