BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – Police searched the offices of Buenos Aires club River Plate and the Argentine Football Association on Tuesday looking for evidence of fraud and money laundering in the running of one of Argentina's most popular clubs.
A federal judge issued the order, which was sought by lawyer Alejandro Sanchez, after River Plate was demoted in June to the second division of Argentine football for the first time in its 110-year history.
Sanchez said Tuesday that his suit charges the club' leadership with administrative fraud, money laundering, and bookkeeping irregularities.
Officials also searched the headquarters of the Argentine Football Association, which runs the sport in the South American country.
''The order of the judge is being complied with in the case of River Plate,'' Jose Luis Meiszner, AFA executive secretary, said.
In a radio intrerview, Sanchez said the suit was directed at former club president Jose Maria Aguilar, current president Daniel Passarella ''and all members of the board of directors, who are responsible for running the club in recent years and generated, among other things, the demotion of River.''
He said AFA was involved because of the ''close relationship'' between Aguilar and AFA's 80-year-old president Julio Grondona. He said Grondona autorized loans to Aguilar in exchange for support as the head of Argentine football.
River Plate is reported to have debts of $19 million, which has forced it to sell off top players and further weakened the team.
The specter of money laundering in Argentina - and particularly in Argentine football - has surfaced with the government under increasing international pressure to crack down.
River Plate officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday that club leadership had no comment.
River Plate's demotion on June 26 set off ugly riots in the club's stadium in a leafy section of northern Buenos Aires. Angry fans pelted police with rocks, burned vehicles and ripped out stadium seats to use as weapons. Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas, and brought in mounted units to try to keep order.
River has won 33 first-division titles, 10 more than anyone else, but was forced to sell two top players after the demotion. Erik Lamela was sold to Italian club Roma and Diego Buonanotte went to Malaga in Spain.