Italian footballer dropped in betting probe

Domenico Criscito was on Monday dropped from Italy's Euro 2012 squad after his room at the side's training camp was searched by police as part of a match-fixing probe that also saw Lazio captain Stefano Mauri arrested.

Italian football federation vice-president Demetrio Albertini said the decision was taken jointly by the association and national team coach Cesare Prandelli, despite prosecutors insisting that Criscito was not charged and was free to play.

"He (Criscito) is disappointed about the repercussions on the national team and the dressing room," said Albertini. "He explained certain things to me and I believe his version and in his innocence."

The search of Criscito's room came as police swooped in a series of dawn raids up and down the country, targeting a number of top players as part of an investigation into alleged match-fixing.

The investigation -- the latest to hit Italian football -- comes on the day Prandelli was due to announce his final squad for the showpiece tournament in Poland and Ukraine in just over two weeks' time.

The public prosecutor in Cremona, Stefano Di Martino, said three Serie A matches -- Bari-Sampdoria, Lecce-Lazio and Lazio-Genoa -- were being investigated as well as seven or eight matches involving Siena last season when they were in Serie B.

Two million euros ($2.5 million) was won on the Lecce-Lazio match and 600,000 euros was used to bribe players, he added.

Lazio skipper Mauri was one of 19 people implicated in the investigation, which is believed to be centred on the payment of players by betting syndicates masterminded in Singapore.

Criscito's agent, Andrea D'Amico, added that Criscito, who did not train with his team-mates on Monday morning, was calm and claims to have simply met with his ex-club's fans following a derby defeat to Sampdoria.

In May last year, Criscito, who now plays for Zenit St Petersburg in Russia, is alleged to have met with then-Genoa team-mate Giuseppe Sculli, two heads of the club's "ultra" fans and a Bosnian with a criminal record in a restaurant in the city.

Cremona prosecutors asked for an arrest warrant for Sculli, 31, but that was rejected by the preliminary investigation judge.

Conte, who guided Juve to their first Serie A title since 2003, is being investigated over his time as coach of Siena in Serie B last season.

"Conte has reacted as someone completely removed and strongly determined to show he has nothing to do with these accusations," said Conte's agent, Antonio De Rencis.

Of the 19 people targeted by the raids, 14 were arrested, three placed under house arrest and two ordered to present themselves to a police station.

Eleven are either current or former players, mostly from Italy's top four divisions.

As well as 32-year-old Mauri, former Genoa and Fiorentina midfielder Omar Milanetto, 36 who is now with Padova in Serie B, was arrested. Chievo captain Sergio Pellissier also had his home searched.

Five Hungarians, two who were arrested and three more already behind bars, are believed to have had contacts with a group of "Zingari" -- Gypsies in Italian -- and the chiefs in Singapore to manipulate Italian matches.

The fall-out to the so-called "Calcioscommesse" -- football betting -- investigation has been felt since last year with several high-profile names implicated.

Previous corruption scandals in the Italian game have done little to hinder the national side.

The 1980 "Totonero" scandal saw AC Milan and Lazio relegated to Serie B while star striker Paolo Rossi was banned for two years. He came back just in time to be Italy's hero in their 1982 World Cup victory.

In 2006, Juve were relegated and stripped of their 2005 and 2006 titles for interfering with the referees' commission. Just over a month later, Italy won their fourth World Cup.

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