TBILISI, DFWatch – An investigation has been launched in Italy regarding 33 rigged football games, and Georgia’s most famous football player is implicated in the case.
Kakhi Kaladze, a former professional who played Genoa during 2010-2011, denies being involved. There is no information yet of whether Italian police have been in touch with their Georgian colleagues.
19 people were arrested in Italy on May 28.
“The player is currently at Coverciano (this morning at 6.25 two cars arrived at Coverciano, presumably to carry out a search and collect material) with Cesare Prandelli and the Italy team. Also allegedly involved is Kakhaber Kaladze. Both were defense players for Genoa during the 2010-11 season,” an Italian newspaper reports underneath the title “ITALY TEAM INVOLVED“.
Kakhi Kaladze retired as football player in December 2011, after he decided to leave sport and support the new opposition movement of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. He played for Georgia’s national team since 1996 until the end of 2011.
AC Milan paid 16 million euro for Kaladze’s transfer and in 2001 he became the most highly paid Georgian player. He won the Champions League twice with Milan. He was also with them when they won the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA World Cup.
Kaladze claims he didn’t receive any notification from Italy police, but he doesn’t exclude that he will be called as a witness.
“If anyone wants to tail this topic and ‘turn a fly into an elephant’ [a Georgian expression, ed.] it’s their own business. My whole life I have been fighting against match rigging, so this situation is funny for me,” he said at a press conference a few days ago.
According to Italian media, phone recordings forms part of the evidence in the case.
Kaladze explained that one of the phone calls in question was when he inquired about a marble door for his new hotel on the Black Sea coast.
“There is a conversation about an ordinary door, which doesn’t have any connection with a goal [in Georgian called a door, ed.] in football. For some reason they considered door and marble code words. I want to repeat that I am building a hotel in Kobuleti and I spoke with a person, whom I have seen five-six times, I spoke about purchasing a marble door. But we didn’t do a deal, because he didn’t have the right sizes.”
But the story has become a hot topic for Georgia’s pro-government channels. Rustavi 2 and Imedi several times opened their main news program with the Kaladze case.
Now Imedi is reporting that Italian police are interested in Kaladze’s relations with the suspected drug dealer Altik Saphetti from Bosnia, who was arrested. This person had connections with players for Genoa.
Imedi reports that the prosecutor’s office published a recorded phone conversation which appears to be about the planning of a meeting between the drug dealing suspect and Kaladze:
Altik Saphetti – Can you call Kaladze for one minute and tell him to call?
Giuseppe Sculli – Where are you? Home?
Altik Saphetti – Yes, I’m home and I was told that he is there doing something.
Giuseppe Sculli – Yes, I’ll tell him to call.
Kakhi Kaladze – How are you?
Altik Saphetti – Fine, you?
Kakhi Kaladze – I’m fine. What do you do? How are things going on?
Altik Saphetti – Are you out?
Kakhi Kaladze – Where are you?
Altik Saphetti – Can we meet?
Kakhi Kaladze – I’ll call you.
Soon after the report on Imedi, head of Kaladze’s press office told journalists that there are still no calls from Italy about drugs or fixed matches.
He says Kaladze has nothing to do with drugs.
“But some media want to tail these stories. National channels try to make black PR for Kaladze. I want to state for them that Italian police didn’t have any questions to Kaladze yet. He has a clear past.”