Former Atalanta captain Cristiano Doni and 16 other people were arrested across Italy on Monday in an ongoing investigation into match-fixing and illegal betting on games.
The inquiry is focused on several matches in Serie B over the past two seasons — with three of the matches including Atalanta.
Three Serie A matches from last season are also under investigation: Brescia vs. Bari, Brescia vs. Lecce and Napoli vs. Sampdoria.
"This is not the end but just a starting point," Cremona prosecutor Roberto Di Martino said. "Let's hope it's a starting point in cleaning up the beautiful game that is football. One of the suspects has admitted that these operations have been going on for over 10 years.
"At the top of the organization are men from Singapore who are those who move the money, but the shareholders are divided from the West, to the Far East, to South America and they manage with their men how to change the outcome of football matches."
The arrests come five years after another major match-fixing scandal — restricted to club and referee officials but not players — resulted in Juventus getting relegated to Serie B for a season, plus point penalties for Lazio, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Reggina in Serie A.
Others arrested Monday include former Inter Milan and Roma player Luigi Sartor, former Serie B player Alessandro Zamperini and active players Carlo Gervasoni of Piacenza and Filippo Carobbio of Spezia.
Charges include criminal association and sporting fraud, while Doni — who was placed under investigation in June — has been arrested on suspicion of attempting to destroy evidence.
"There were several elements that would have risked ruining the evidence and that lead to the need for custodial measures," Di Martino said.
A phone call was reportedly intercepted between Doni and Ravenna goalkeeping coach Nicola Santoni — who has also been arrested — in which the pair discuss tampering with Santoni's iPhone, which had been confiscated by police in June.
Reports say Doni attempted to flee after police arrived at his house Monday morning. The 38-year-old Doni opened the door to the officers but then tried to escape via his garage, where he was caught.
In the order of arrest for Doni, judge Guido Salvini wrote that "Doni, acting also on behalf of unnamed club directors, who were aiming for promotion to Serie A, interfered or tried to interfere in the results of multiple games of his team, with the purpose of illegitimately procuring for himself the proceeds of bets."
Doni and the rest of the defendants have been forbidden from talking to their lawyers for the next five days.
As recently as last month, Gubbio defender Simone Farina was approached and offered $200,000 euros ($271,000 Cdn) to influence the outcome of an Italian Cup match between Cesena and Gubbio on Nov. 30. The player refused and reported the incident to the police.
Farina started his career in Roma's youth team with Zamperini.
In June, 16 people were arrested as part of the inquiry, which is being led by prosecutors in Cremona, and Doni was then placed under investigation.
In August, Doni was banned from football for 3 ½ years by the Italian football federation's disciplinary committee, and Atalanta — which was promoted to Serie A for this season — was given a six-point penalty.
Doni has said he is innocent.
UEFA has said it will wait and see what emerges from the investigation before deciding whether to take action.
"UEFA is not able to make an official comment at the moment," spokesman Robert Faulkner told Italian news agency ANSA. "Of course match-fixing is one of UEFA's main concerns. But in this specific case it is purely an Italian investigation, which mainly concerns Serie B matches.
"Even though UEFA pays a lot of attention to everything that concerns match-fixing and clandestine betting, this specific case does not directly involve it."