Investigators probing Granit Xhaka’s booking in Arsenal’s Premier League win at Leeds last season are looking into an alleged criminal conspiracy involving the Albanian mafia and an ex-professional footballer who has been convicted of match-fixing.
Sportsmail revealed in June that the FA’s inquiry into Xhaka’s bizarre yellow card for time wasting last December was passed on to the National Crime Agency, who lead the UK’s fight against serious and organised crime.
The FA’s investigation was triggered by suspicious betting patterns that emerged towards the end of Arsenal’s 4-1 win at Elland Road, with £52,000 staked on Xhaka being booked in the final 10 minutes of the game.
Xhaka was booked by referee Andre Marriner in the 86th minute as he delayed taking a free-kick, despite the fact Arsenal were winning 4-1 and in complete control of the game.
Video footage of the incident shows the midfielder standing over the ball deep in his own half for around 20 seconds before being booked.
The unusually high volume of trading on betting exchange Betfair may have been just the tip of the iceberg.
Investigators probing Granit Xhaka’s booking in Arsenal’s win over Leeds last season are looking into an alleged criminal conspiracy
Xhaka was booked by referee Andre Marriner (above) for time-wasting in the 86th minute
Sportsmail has been told the NCA investigators have discovered evidence of significant sums being wagered in cryptocurrency in markets that are not regulated in this country, with much of the activity understood to have taken place in Albania.
The NCA are also looking into claims that Alban Jusufi, a Swedish-Albanian striker given a five-year ban for match-fixing by the Swedish courts in 2017, made huge sums by betting on Xhaka to be booked.
The 41-year-old was found guilty of bribing AIK goalkeeper Kyriakos Stamatopoulos £150,000 to underperform ahead of a derby against IFK Gothenburg in 2017. Sweden’s FA postponed the fixture after the match-fixing was reported.
Xhaka, expected to start for Arsenal at Crystal Palace on Friday night, was born in Basel and plays for Switzerland but is proud of his Albanian heritage. His older brother Taulant won 31 caps for the country.
During the 2018 World Cup, Xhaka was fined by FIFA for making a hand gesture to represent the Albanian national symbol of an eagle
Xhaka, 29, was fined by FIFA at the 2018 World Cup for making a hand gesture to represent the Albanian symbol of an eagle in Switzerland’s 2-1 win over Serbia.
There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on his part, nor is it clear who may be implicated in any conspiracy.
Arsenal and the FA declined to comment on Thursday night. It is understood they have not received any recent updates from the investigating team.