Soccer: Anderlecht raided in transfer cash probe

By Clement Rossignol
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FILE PHOTO: General view before the match

FILE PHOTO: Britain Football Soccer - Manchester United v RSC Anderlecht - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final Second Leg - Old Trafford, Manchester, England - 20/4/17 General view before the match Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff Livepic/File Photo

By Clement Rossignol

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian police raided the offices of Anderlecht and the national football association on Wednesday in relation to a money laundering investigation involving agents and player transfers.

A spokeswoman for the Brussels club told public broadcaster VRT that Anderlecht was cooperating fully with the probe and a spokesman for the Belgian FA told Reuters that police had taken away documents relating to transfers from its headquarters.

"(The raids) concern money laundering and a group of criminals, in particular questions are being asked about the transfer of one or more players," the federal prosecutor said in a statement.

It said the investigation also focuses on the suspicious actions of one or more agents and concerned events prior to 2016.

VRT and other local media said prosecutors were looking into transfers made before a 2017 change of ownership at Anderlecht and had also raided an agent's office in the capital.

Among the transfers being probed, the media said, was the sale of Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic to Newcastle United in 2015. The Premier League side politely declined to comment.

The prosecutor's spokesman had earlier on Wednesday said that the raids were not linked to the wide-ranging "Footballgate" probe into match-fixing and fraud which rocked the domestic league last year after the national side's third place finish at the World Cup.

The raids come at a miserable time for Anderlecht, champions in 2017 and historically Belgium's most successful club.

Dismal form has prompted a fan revolt that saw them fined and docked points this month when crowd trouble forced a match at arch-rivals Standard Liege to be abandoned; they then fired coach Fred Rutten after just 13 games in charge.

The two-times holders of the Cup Winners' Cup and 1983 UEFA Cup winners are on the verge of failing to qualify for European competition next season for the first time in 55 years.

(Reporting by Clement Rossignol and Foo Yun Chee; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis)