When Hugo Jorge Bravo received information over what has since blown up into a major alleged match-fixing scandal in Brazil, the lifelong soccer fan and full-time police officer felt there was only one thing to do.
But this case was very different from any other in Bravo’s career since it involved his beloved Vila Nova, a second-tier Brazilian club where he has been president since 2020. His investigations led to action by Brazil’s federal police and the district attorney’s office of the state of Goias, with the country’s lower house of Congress also getting involved.
Charges of alleged manipulation of sports competitions have so far been filed against 15 players across the top two tiers and local leagues, including two Vila Nova players — defender Gabriel Domingos and midfielder-striker Marcos Vinicius Alves Barreira, who both had their contracts at the club terminated.
The wider investigation of the attorney’s office in Goias showed that players were allegedly offered $10,000 to $20,000 to perform specific actions, like receiving yellow cards and giving away penalty kicks. Alleged criminals would then profit on betting sites. The investigation, which started in November, focused on three matches based on Bravo’s evidence. Since then, it has grown to 11 games in the second half of 2022 and the first three months of this year. More matches could be added to the list as the probe widens.
Last year, Bravo said he received information that one of his players had been approached by gamblers to give a penalty to Vila Nova rival Sport Recife during the first half of their league game. The player was accused of failing to deliver because he did not play, which allegedly triggered criminals to put pressure on him after they faced big losses.
De Mello will be one of the key members of a congressional inquiry that opened on Wednesday. Brazil’s federal police also opened an investigation into the case, which makes it more likely there will be cooperation with foreign authorities if evidence is found against anyone playing in foreign leagues. De Mello chaired Flamengo when Colorado Rapids midfielder Max Alves played for the club. Alves was named in the earlier probe, though not charged, and his MLS club suspended him. Alves has not commented publicly.