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Further arrest over Servette collapse

Olivier Maus (left) was arrested two days after Marc Roger (right). TSR

The scandal surrounding the bankruptcy of Geneva’s Servette football team has widened, with news of a second arrest on Thursday.

This content was published on March 16, 2005 - 11:57

Police said ex-club director Olivier Maus had been detained, two days after the arrest of former president Marc Roger.

Like Roger, Maus is accused of mismanagement of the club, which was declared bankrupt early last month, with debts estimated at around SFr11 million ($9.5 million).

Maus, who has been connected with Servette for 30 years, was arrested in Geneva on Thursday.

The millionaire businessman is heir to one of the biggest fortunes in Switzerland, and his family own the Manor and Jumbo store chains.

Following his arrest, Maus was expected to be questioned by investigating magistrate Marc Tappolet.

Documents seized

On Wednesday police announced the arrest of former Servette president Roger on charges of bankruptcy fraud, mismanagement and breach of trust.

They said they had searched three houses in Geneva and seized "a number of documents". They said around 20 people had filed complaints against the Frenchman.

Roger took over as president and main shareholder of Servette in February 2004, when the club was in a deep financial crisis.

Servette narrowly escaped bankruptcy and the former football agent was hailed as the saviour who would bring back the glory days to one of Switzerland’s most prestigious clubs.

With the backing of Spanish investors and the French international, Claude Makelele, Servette boosted their budget to nearly SFr13 million ($10.5 million) for the new season.

The club bought 21 new players, including the former French international, Christian Karembeu, and Romania’s Viorel Moldovan.

Honeymoon over

But the honeymoon didn’t last. Servette filed for creditor protection in January this year, citing massive debts.

It emerged that players and backroom staff had not been paid since September.

Servette were officially declared bankrupt on February 4 and kicked out of the Super League, ending an unbroken 115-year stay in the top division.

The Geneva club launched a desperate search for new investors, but proceedings soon degenerated into farce.

Club lawyer Dominique Warluzel turned his back on Roger, after the Frenchman presented a controversial Lebanese businessman as the man who would save the club.

Hunt for investors

After that deal fell through, Roger said he had lined up a group of unnamed Syrian investors who were willing to pump millions into the club.

But in a news release published on the club’s website, these investors said too many hurdles had got in the way of their bid. They added that talks with Roger had been difficult.

The final nail in the coffin came a fortnight later when the club said it would not be appealing against the bankruptcy ruling.

Winner of 17 championship titles, Servette started to stumble in 2001 when French television group Canal Plus reduced its majority stake to comply with ownership rules laid down by Uefa – European football’s governing body.

Canal Plus was obliged to sell some shares so its other team, Paris St Germain, could compete in the Uefa Cup.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Servette Football Club:

Founded 115 years ago.
Won 17 championship titles.
Lifted the Swiss Cup 7 times.
Played 27 times in European competitions.
The club will play in the third division next season.

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