By Elias Hazou
A 52-year-old man, arrested in Cyprus as part of a major investigation by Belgian authorities into financial fraud and possible match-fixing, is to remain in police custody until Monday when he will appear before a court for his initial extradition hearing.
Belgium has asked for the man’s extradition. The suspect is of Bosnian extraction; he holds a Cypriot passport and has been living on the island for the past 20 years.
On Wednesday he was arrested in Nicosia on the strength of a European arrest warrant issued by Belgian authorities.
He is wanted by Belgium on suspicion of participating in a criminal organisation and money laundering.
The offences are said to have been committed in Belgium, Cyprus and other EU countries between 2012 and 2018.
During a preliminary hearing held on Thursday, police told the court that the 52-year-old is a director/accountant in several companies in Cyprus through which the alleged unlawful activities were committed.
The suspect is said to have had a long association with another person who is “indirectly implicated” with these companies. This person allegedly helped the 52-year-old draw up fake contracts and invoices in the name of a specific company with the purpose of laundering monies obtained through illicit activities.
The 52-year-old is said to have received payment on a commission basis for services rendered to the other person.
The suspect’s attorney told the court he would consult with his client to determine whether he would consent to his extradition to Belgium.
The extradition hearing has been set for Monday, October 15.
Should the suspect consent to his extradition, he would be extradited to Belgium within 10 days from giving his consent.
Otherwise, if he objects to being extradited, the court has 60 days to issue a final judgment on the matter. In special circumstances the 60-day period may be extended by another 30 days at most.
More than 15 police officers participated in Wednesday’s operation in Cyprus in the presence of two Belgian investigators who were on the island to coordinate raids launched simultaneously in several countries.
From the 52-year-old’s home and offices, police seized two laptops, four computers, two tablets and documents. The establishments in question are not betting shops, police said.
The search and arrest were part of investigations launched in Belgium in connection with forgery and circulation of documents, tax evasion and money laundering.
Belgian prosecutors said the searches were related to an investigation launched at the end of 2017 into suspect financial transactions in the top Belgian football 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.