By Duncan Mackay

Nikola Karabatic at London 2012February 8 - French Olympic champions Nikola Karabatić (pictured) and Samuel Honrubia are among seven handball players handed six-match bans for their involvement in an illegal betting scandal.

The French Handball League (LNH) announced that the Karabatić and his brother Luka, along Honrubia, Mladen Bojinovic, Dragan Gajic, Primoz Prost and Issam Tej had been found guilty of having "directly or indirectly, placed bets on the result of the game".

The players, all members of the Montpellier team at the time, have been under formal investigation since September on charges of fraud and match-fixing.

Karabatić, a member of the French team that won gold medals at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and Honrubia, who played alongside him at last year's Olympics, have both denied any wrongdoing.

According to a French prosecutor, a total of €87,880 (£74,900/$117,885) were placed in bets on a Frst Division game between Montpellier and Cesson-Sevigne last May, 40 times the usual amount for this kind of match.

Most of the bets were placed around the same time of day and 99.94 per cent were put on struggling Cesson-Sevigne to lead at halftime, the prosecutor said.

Samuel Honrubia celebrates gold medal at London 2012Samuel Honrubia celebrates France's gold medal at London 2012

"We are surprised by this decision which does not respect the law," said Karabatić's lawyer Bhakti Ong. 

"Obviously we are going to appeal.

"The investigating judge's report said that there is no proof that Nikola Karabatić either directly or indirectly placed bets.

"But in this case the Commission says yes he did.

"This really isn't serious."

Karabatić has strenuously denied placing a bet, although his brother Luka, who was released by the southwest club in the wake of the scandal and now plays for Aix-en-Provence, has admitted betting thousands of euros.

Of the players punished in all over the scandal only two Tej and Gajic - who also protest their innocence - remain at Montpellier.

Karabatić has joined his brother at Aix-en-Provence.

Nikola and Luka Karabatić and their girlfriends, plus a number of other players and others implicated in the affair, were placed under formal investigation in October on suspicion of defrauding state-run betting franchise Francaise des Jeux.

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