Former footballer Beppe Signori celebrating a goal during his days with Bologna (Getty)

(WFI) A new storm is hitting Italian football as 16 people, including former player Beppe Signori, have been arrested due to illegal betting on primarily Serie B matches.

The investigation, conducted by police in the province of Cremona, alleges that those arrested have severely influenced the results of some Serie B and Lega Pro matches in recent months.

On Tuesday, the scandal widened to include Serie A matches.

Austrian betting firm Skysport365 has reported to Italian prosecutors unusually high bets of millions of dollars placed on a number of games in the top-flight last season, Italian media reported.

Federal prosecutor Stefano Palazzi is heading the investigation with the aim of concluding the proceedings within July or August.

“If necessary, [the Italian football federation] will take civil action to protect the regularity of the championships and claim damages,” FA president Giancarlo Abete was quoted during last week’s FIFA elections.

The seven arrested players are former Lazio and Bologna striker Signori, Antonio Bellavista, Marco Paoloni, Mauro Bressan, Vittorio Micolucci, Vincenzo Sommese and Gianluca Tuccella.

According to police, the current and former footballers in question are part of a criminal organization whose aim is to manipulate certain fixtures to their advantage.

The investigation centres around 18 recent matches, among them Ascoli-Atalanta and Livorno-Ascoli (both 1-1) of Serie B and Inter-Lecce (1-0) of Serie A.

Several more Serie A matches reportedly remain in the crosshairs of Cremona prosecutors.

Though not arrested, Atalanta captain Cristiano Doni and former Bologna defender Stefano Bettarini are also suspected of betting on the outcome of some matches.

The order by Cremona’s judge said that Beppe Signori was a “central element of the group of punters” but his lawyers said that he was not involved in the case.

Betting agency owners and employees are also among the 30 total people arrested as part of the ongoing match-fixing probe.

The arrests in Italy follow recent warnings by UEFA president Michel Platini and newly re-elected FIFA president Sepp Blatter on the dangers illegal and irregular betting pose to world football – and a $29 million partnership between FIFA and Interpol to combat the problem.

By INSIDER’s Gabriele Perrone

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