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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 April, 2004, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Portugal football bosses arrested
Portugal's Pauleta (left) celebrates after scoring against Greece, 15 Nov 03
Portugal's preparations for hosting Euro 2004 are in full swing
Portuguese police have arrested 16 referees and football executives, including the chairman of the country's league, in a major corruption probe.

Police said the officials would be questioned about allegations of match-fixing, including forgery.

League Chairman Valentim Loureiro and the head of the referees' panel, Antonio Pinto de Sousa, were among those held in raids on 60 premises.

Portugal is gearing up to host the 16-nation Euro 2004 tournament in June.

Mr Loureiro, a former chairman of the Boavista football club, is also the mayor of the northern town of Gondomar. He was arrested in Oporto.

Police swooped in "Operation Golden Whistle" after a year-long investigation which involved about 150 officers, the AFP news agency reported.

Among the premises searched were the offices of the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) in Lisbon and of premier league club Sporting Braga.

Euro 2004 fears

The BBC's Alison Roberts in Lisbon says there are fears that the alleged scandal will tarnish Portugal's image in the run-up to Euro 2004.

The affair has prompted renewed calls for referees to be overseen by an independent body, she says.

FPF president Gilberto Madail said he was not surprised by the police move, following "insinuations which have been made over years".

Police are reported to be investigating suspected accounting irregularities involving players' wages at five first division clubs, including Benfica.

Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation, saying simply "I hope everything will be cleared up".

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