Two arrested in transfer fraud raids in Belgium, Monaco, London

Police conduct raids in London, Monaco and Belgium linked to Serbia's striker Aleksandar Mitrovic's transfer to Newcastle United

Police investigating suspected fraud linked to the transfer of Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic to Newcastle United have made seven raids in Belgium, Monaco and London, arresting two people including an agent, officials said Wednesday.

Under the direction of a Belgian anti-corruption judge, police and tax officials made seven raids on Tuesday and Wednesday, detaining an agent in Monaco and his assistant in the Belgian city of Liege.

Eric Van Duyse, spokesman for the Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office, told AFP that two men were being held after being indicted for "money laundering, forgery and the use of forgeries, private corruption and criminal conspiracy".

He refused to reveal their identities but a judicial source confirmed the agent was Belgian Christophe Henrotay, who is based in the Principality. He was indicted by a Belgian judge who had travelled down to Monaco.

The probe, which earlier this year saw the Belgian FA headquarters searched, is looking into suspected money-laundering related to transfers including Mitrovic's 18.5 million euro (13 million pound) move from Anderlecht to St James' Park in 2015.

Henrotay is one of the top football agents in Belgium. His clients include Belgian internationals Thibaut Courtois, the Real Madrid goalkeeper, and winger Yannick Carrasco.

A source close to the inquiry told AFP that Henrotay is suspected of taking illegal kickbacks in connection with another transfer.

- Cult following -

Four of this week's raids were in Monaco, two in Belgium and one in London, with the cooperation of the Metropolitan Police and British customs and revenue officers.

The inquiry is separate from Belgium's so-called "footballgate" scandal, which has resulted in 20 suspects being charged since October 2018, including agents, referees and club officials, in a vast investigation into fraud and match-fixing.

Mitrovic, whose committed, physical style of play won him something of a cult following among Newcastle fans, spent three seasons at the club before moving to Fulham in 2018.

His transfer from Anderlecht -- Belgium's most successful club -- involved the agents Pini Zahavi and Fali Ramadani, the Derniere Heure newspaper reported at the time of the initial raids in April.

Prosecutors have not publicly named anyone connected with the probe, but a judicial source confirmed to AFP in April the Mitrovic transfer was part of the investigation.

The earlier raids saw officers search the Anderlecht training centre as well as the Belgian FA headquarters and the offices of One Goal Management company which specialises in transfers.

The criminal probe adds to Anderlecht's woes on the pitch, where the 34-time Belgian champions are languishing a lowly 13th in the league with just a single win in their first six games this season.