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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spartak Player Held Over False Passport

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Spartak Moscow goalkeeper Maxim Levitsky was released from a French jail Thursday after being held overnight in an investigation over the use of a false Greek passport.

Levitsky, who joined Spartak from France's St. Etienne in December, was detained Tuesday after attending a French National Soccer League disciplinary hearing into the alleged use of fake passports to get around nationality quotas.

In France, first division clubs are only allowed to field three players from outside the European Union.

Levitsky and Brazilian teammate Alex were counted as EU players because they were playing under Greek and Portuguese documents, respectively, until their passports were discovered to be false.

Alex crudely stuck his photograph over a photo in another passport when he presented his documents, Sport-Express newspaper reported.

An investigation into the use of false passports began when French first division side Toulouse complained after losing to St. Etienne on Dec 2. The pair were suspended, and the French National Soccer League, or FNS, launched a probe.

Levitsky and Alex were ordered to appear before the FNS hearing on Tuesday, but only the Russian turned up.

After the hearing, Levitsky was taken in for questioning by French police, who are also investigating the matter, Gazeta.ru reported. But after being questioned for 20 hours and spending a night in jail, he was freed Thursday morning.

At the hearing, Levitsky denied that St. Etienne had pressured him into getting the fake passport in order to free up places for other non-EU players.

He could face a fine or a lengthy ban from international soccer if found guilty by the committee, which meets again to discuss the case Jan. 16.

The FNS for now will not place any restrictions on Levitsky from joining the Spartak team as they train in Israel, Gazeta.ru reported.

Disciplinary committee president Jean-Pierre Camus expressed sympathy for Levitsky after the hearing.

"My personal opinion, after hearing the initial evidence, is that Levitsky is more a victim than the author of the problem," Camus was quoted by Sport-Express as saying.

French authorities are currently investigating 78 players in the league who hold passports from both EU and non-EU countries.

France is not the only country to face problems with soccer players and fake passports.

Arsenal's Brazilian draftee Edu was turned back from Britain last October after he was caught traveling with a false passport.

One Russian player, Valery Karpin, though, has found another way to get in the game. He was recognized as a citizen of the European Union last December after a court recognized his right as a citizen of a country with associate membership to the EU to have the same treatment as an ordinary member.