Match fixing scandal takes another twist

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Italy's preparations for the European Championships this summer have been disrupted as police ramp up their investigation into yet another match-fixing scandal.

Police officers visited the national team's training complex in Tuscany on Monday morning to search the room of defender Domenico Criscito and inform the 25-year-old he is among several players being investigated.

It has since been announced that Criscito, who plays for Zenit St Petersburg, will not be included in the Italy squad that will travel to Poland and Ukraine for Euro 2012.

More than 30 homes of players, coaches and administrators across the Italian league spectrum have been searched by police, while Lazio captain Stefano Mauri was the most high-profile name to be taken into custody.

Genoa midfielder Omar Milanetto was also arrested as part of the ongoing investigation, while Juventus manager Antonio Conte has been questioned by police.

Conte led Juve to the Scudetto last season - their first legitimate league crown in nine years - while the Bianconeri also made history by going unbeaten for the entire Serie A campaign.

However, the Italian faces allegations of wrongdoing related to his time with Siena, and specifically regarding an encounter with Novara in April 2011.

"Conte's reaction is that of someone who is completely innocent and strongly determined to prove his total innocence," said his agent, according to BBC Sport.

A total of 19 people were arrested on Monday, including 11 players, while the Italian media have reported that games involving Napoli, Sampdoria, Brescia, Bari, Lecce, Palermo, Lazio and Genoa.

According to La Repubblica, investigators have a particular interest in a meeting held in May 2011 by Genoa players Criscito, who has since left the club, and Giuseppe Sculli, members of an Ultra fan group and a known eastern European criminal.

A gang known as The Gypsies are reported to be in the sights of investigators, with police believing they paid players thousands of euros to fix matches.

Last summer the Italian Interior Ministry launched a match-fixing task force following a number of high-profile cases during the previous season, resulting in numerous arrests over the past few months.

In April, Atalanta defender Andrea Masiello was arrested, while it was later revealed he had accepted €50,000 to score a deliberate own goal during his time with Bari.

Italian football has been tarnished by a number of scandals related to match-fixing in recent seasons, and Juventus were stripped of two league titles in 2006 for their part in the Calciopoli.

Juve were also relegated to Serie B, but have since been restored to former glories by Conte, although the reputation of the 42-year-old could now potentially be in tatters.

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