French mess

Police said yesterday they had detained 12 people for questioning in connection with allegations of match-fixing in French handball, including double Olympic gold medal winner Nikola Karabatic.

A police source said those questioned were eight players for Montpellier, including Karabatic and his brother Luka, two players for Paris Saint-Germain formerly with Montpellier, a member of staff for Montpellier and a player's girlfriend.

A French policewoman escorts Nikola Karabatic (right) as he leaves the Pierre de Coubertin Arena in Paris yesterday. Pic/AFP

Five of the Montpellier players, including Nikola Karabatic, Wissem Hmam, Michael Robin, Dragan Gajic and Primoz Prost, were put into police cars and driven away in a convoy, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

The team’s physiotherapist, Yann Montiege, also left with police.

The players were questioned in their dressing rooms at the Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris immediately following a match between Montpellier and Paris Saint-Germain, a source close to the players said.

An AFP journalist at the stadium earlier saw plain-clothes police showing badges to guards to enter the stadium.

The French professional handball scene was thrown into turmoil Wednesday after an investigation was ramped up into giants Montpellier over alleged match-fixing and illegal betting.

The south coast club has dominated French handball for the last 15 years, and officials were quick to protest the innocence of their players, many of whom starred for the France team that won Olympic gold at the London Games. Suspicions were raised over a match that Montpellier lost 31-28 to Cesson-Sevigne on May 12. At the time, Montpellier were assured of a 13th league title in 15 seasons while the Breton club sat in eighth position.

Betting firm La Francaise des Jeux (FDJ) at the time reported abnormal betting patterns up to five times greater than expected and suspended bets during the match.

Large bets reportedly came in at half-time on a loss for Montpellier, for whom the Karabatic brothers, Mladen Bojinovic, Vid Kavticnik and Samuel Honrubia were not playing because of injury.

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