Belgian police carried out a series of raids at soccer clubs and homes across the country on Wednesday and detained many people for questioning about financial fraud and possible match-fixing, Belgian prosecutors said.
A total of 44 searches were carried out at top Belgian clubs and residences, federal prosecutors said in a statement. At the same time, searches of 13 houses also took place in France, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia.
Prosecutors did not name any clubs or people. Belgian broadcasters VRT and RTBF said searches had taken place at leading teams including Anderlecht, Club Bruges and Standard Liege.
Prosecutors said the searches were related to an investigation launched at the end of 2017 into suspect financial transactions in the top Belgian league, with possible charges of criminal organisation, money laundering and corruption.
Some agents were suspected of hiding commissions on transfers, players' pay and other payments from the Belgian authorities, the prosecutors said.
"During the investigation there were indications of possible influencing of matches in the 2017-2018 season," the prosecutors said.
The searches come after Belgium reached the World Cup semi-finals. Most of the national team squad now play abroad but previously played in the Belgian premier league, which is a major feeder of players for top European club sides.
Some of the house searches were carried out at the homes of club directors, soccer agents, referees, a former lawyer, a trainer, journalists and at an accountancy office.
"A large number of people have been deprived of their liberty and taken in for a thorough interrogation," the prosecutors said, adding that a judge would later decide who should be held in custody or formally arrested.
The searches abroad were chiefly at offices and residences of people used to set up the suspect transactions, the prosecutors said.
Wales' Bale out of Spain game, '50-50' to face Ireland - Giggs
Wales forward Gareth Bale will miss the chance to face Spain and his Real Madrid team mates including Sergio Ramos and Nacho in an international friendly on Thursday after coach Ryan Giggs said he had been ruled out through injury.
Bale, who was forced off injured in Real's last two Liga games against Atletico Madrid and Alaves, is also a doubt for the UEFA Nations League match away to Ireland on Oct. 16.
"Gareth has got a little bit of muscle fatigue and he won't be involved against Spain," Giggs told a news conference on Wednesday ahead of the game at the Principality Stadium.
"We don't want to take any risks and we are monitoring it every day. Playing in Spain he wants to be a part of it but first and foremost health comes first. We want a fit and raring to go Gareth Bale."
Bale has had a bad run of injuries since he joined Real in 2013, although he has been fit for most of this year.
The 29-year-old came off at halftime during the 0-0 draw with Atletico last month but no injury was detected in a scan carried out by Real, although the Welshman did miss last week's 1-0 Champions League group stage defeat by CSKA Moscow.
Bale returned against Alaves on Saturday but asked to be substituted in the 80th minute.
Giggs said it was touch and go whether Bale could play against Ireland, but predicted he would be ready for Real's game against Levante when La Liga resumes on Oct. 20.
"I'd say he's 50-50 at the minute for the Ireland game," said Giggs, whose side are second in Nations League B group four, level on three points with leaders Denmark and above bottom side Ireland on none but having played a game more.
"He had a scan last week, a couple of weeks ago with Real Madrid. We rescanned it and have done everything we can to get as much information," said Giggs.
"There was a little bit on both scans - but there's always something. We're treating the symptoms but it's nothing to worry about. Either way, I expect him to be fit for Madrid's next game."