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Criminal gangs paid football fans to riot

Two fugitive chiefs of criminal gangs are suspected of paying more than 200,000 euros to football fans whose violent riots forced the cancellation of Serbia's Euro 2012 qualifying match, a Serbian newspaper reports.

Two fugitive chiefs of criminal gangs are suspected of paying more than 200,000 euros (Dh1,026m) to football fans whose violent riots forced the cancellation of Serbia's Euro 2012 qualifying match, a Serbian newspaper reported today.

"More than 200,000 euros had been paid to more than 60 hooligans for the organisation, trip, getting equipment and rioting due to which the match in Genoa was not played," the pro-government Politika daily said, quoting a source close to the investigation.

According to the newspaper, police are following a lead that the riots were ordered by two chiefs of separate criminal gangs – a cocaine dealer suspected also for money laundering and one believed to head a criminal organisation linked with a number of murders, robberies and violent behaviour.

It was likely that the two, "despite being in a financial dispute with each other, financed the riots because both have interest in creating chaos in the state" of Serbia, the source, who asked not to be named, told Politika.

Police have also been checking a lead that people dissatisfied with the situation in the Football Federeation of Serbia had been behind the riots, but the source said it was less likely the case.

The match in Genoa was aborted Tuesday after just six minutes due to Serbian fans throwing flares onto the pitch and at rival Italy supporters.

Police in Italy made 17 arrests and 16 people were hospitalised after the clashes in Genoa. The injured included two policemen.

Serbian police have detained 35 football fans on their way back from Genoa in northern Italy.

Interior minister Ivica Dacic promised a thorough police probe into the incidents.

Serbia has stepped up the fight against organised crime in a bid to meet conditions for membership in the European Union.

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