Former Chelsea striker Diego Costa’s lawyer has insisted the football star is innocent of any wrongdoing after it emerged he was being probed by police over his alleged links to an online betting scandal.
The 32-year-old, now playing for Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro, was identified earlier this week as the footballer being investigated.
Detectives in the state of Sergipe where Costa was born went public with their operation on Thursday, saying they were probing the practice of alleged crimes including money laundering and foreign exchange fraud involving online betting site Esportenet.
The footballer has yet to make any official comment.
But overnight his lawyer Aurelio Belem, confirming the Spanish international’s home in the Brazilian city of Lagarto had been searched, said the footballer had done nothing wrong and would be contacting police himself to give a statement voluntarily.
Mr Belem, denying police claims Costa was the alleged financier of the criminal racket, told local media: “A search took place of his house, which is his home in Lagarto. State police were received by his relatives.
“That search took place because Diego, as a European citizen, as someone who was living in Madrid in Spain, placed legal, legitimate bets on games.
“Some way or other, that was detected and became the focus of checks.
“Police carried out their search as and when they wanted, without any interference.
“They took nothing, nothing was seized, no documents or money. Absolutely nothing.
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“The search was unsuccessful in the sense nothing was confiscated.
“There was a search but no seizures. Nothing was removed from the house.”
He added, claiming the footballer would be contacting police to offer to make a statement: “The truth is that Diego wants to know what the accusation against him is, although in a way there is no accusation from a juridical point of view.
“There’s no basis for this investigation.
“We all know the onus of proof is on the accuser and we’re relaxed about that.”
Sergipe State Police said in a statement released on Thursday: ·”On Wednesday morning Sergipe State Police launched the second phase of an operation codenamed Distraction with the aim of obtaining evidence for an investigation into the alleged practices of exploitation of gambling, money laundering, foreign currency exchange and criminal association involving the ESPORTENET betting site, its owners, financial operators and financier.
“In the first phase of the operation, which began on March 3 this year, documents and electronic equipment were seized that allowed the investigation to be deepened and the amount of 13,129,217.00 Brazilian Reais (£1.77m) in cash was seized.
“Based on the evidence collected, it was possible to identify other betting platforms used by the group and individual companies and legal entities for alleged money laundering and foreign exchange fraud.
“The participation of money changers that help the criminal organization to allegedly commit foreign exchange fraud was verified, as well as the participation of a football player who is allegedly the financier of the criminal scheme.
“At this stage, the investigation is focused on the foreign exchange fraud, with specific focus on the money changers and the betting site's financier.
“Seven search and seizure warrants are being executed, two in Itabaiana in Sergipe, one in Lagarto in Sergipe, two in Simao Dias in Sergipe, one in Salvador in the state of Bahia and one in Sao Paulo.
“The warrants were issued by a judge sitting at Itabaaina’s Sixth Federal Court.
“Warrants for the seizure of property belonging to those involved in the criminal scheme are also being executed.”
Atletico Mineiro went on to confirm the ex-Stamford Bridge striker was the footballer at the centre of the police probe by saying they would support him if he asked for help in a statement.
The statement, titled ‘Diego Costa Official Statement” and posted on the official club website, said: “The reports do not concern the club.
“The allegations that have been put in the public domain weren’t previously known to the public or the club because they formed part of an investigation and they relate to a period which was prior to the athlete’s arrival here.
“However Atletico Mineiro is trying to find out more and if the athlete requires it, we will offer him all the support that might be necessary.”
Diego Costa, full name Diego da Silva Costa, transferred to Chelsea from Atletico Madrid in 2014 in a deal worth £32million.
He won three trophies including two Premier League titles during his time at Stamford Bridge.
He returned to Atletico Madrid in 2018 following a rift with then-manager Antonio Conte.
Costa, a dual citizen of Brazil and Spain, joined Atletico Mineiro on August 14 this year, signing a deal until December 2022.
The Belo Horizonte-based side competes in Brazil’s top-tier Serie A league.
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