MONTPELLIER, France (Reuters) - France’s Olympic champion Nikola Karabatic, under formal investigation for fraud amid a match-fixing scandal, has denied betting on the handball game at the centre of the affair.
Montpellier player Karabatic was placed under formal investigation on Tuesday, two days after he was arrested following a French league game with his Montpellier club at Paris St Germain.
“I‘m going to read you Nikola Karabatic’s statement to the judge,” his lawyer, Eric Dupond-Moretti, told reporters late on Tuesday.
“It goes like this: ‘You asked me if I placed a bet? No, I did not place a bet. Did my girlfriend place a bet? Yes she did. Did she tell me about it? Yes. Why did she bet? She’s been following Montpellier for two years, she knows the (French) league’,” the lawyer said.
Karabatic, along with his brother Luka and Samuel Honrubia - a former Montpellier player - were among 15 people being heard in Montpellier by judges Thomas Meindl and Marie-Christine Desplat-Didier.
Honrubia, who now plays for PSG, admitted to betting, but denied influencing the result of the game.
Prosecutor Brice Robin alleges that a total of 87,880 euros ($113,400) of bets were placed on a first-division game between Montpellier and Cesson-Sevigne in May - 40 times the usual amount for such a match.
Most of the bets were placed around the same time of day and 99.94 percent were placed on struggling Cesson-Sevigne to lead at halftime, he added.
Robin said the investigation focused on the players and their relatives, with both clubs’ chairmen and coaches having been cleared of any suspicion of wrongdoing.
Karabatic led France to back-to-back Olympic titles in 2008 and this year while Honrubia also won gold in London.
Karabatic and Honrubia did not take part in the game against Cesson.
Reporting by Jean Decotte; Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clare Fallon