Match fixing

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Judge rules players not guilty in match-fixing case in Spain

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MADRID — The 36 players on trial in Spain’s most high-profile match-fixing case were cleared of wrongdoing on Monday.

A Spanish judge issued the “not guilty” verdict, saying there was not enough evidence to convict the players and others on trial – including former Mexico coach Javier Aguirre.

More than 40 people were accused of match-fixing involving the Spanish league game between Levante and Zaragoza at the end of the 2010-11 season.

The judge convicted two former Zaragoza officials of fraud – then-president Agapito Iglesias and club director Javier Porquera. They were given a one-year, three-month prison sentence, although they were not likely to face jail time because sentences of less than two years for first-time offenders are often suspended in Spain.

Those accused were facing two years in prison and a six-year soccer ban.

Among the players on trial were Ander Herrera, now with Paris Saint-Germain; former Leicester midfielder Vicente Iborra; former Atletico Madrid captain Gabi Fernandez; River Plate midfielder Leonardo Ponzio; Serbian defender Ivan Obradovic; Lazio forward Felipe Caicedo; Itailan defender Maurizio Lanzaro; and Uruguay striker Cristhian Stuani.

Aguirre was Zaragoza’s coach at the time. He was among those who appeared in court to testify.

The investigation began after Spanish league president Javier Tebas denounced the alleged match-fixing, saying a former player told him a result had been fixed.

Prosecutors said there was evidence 965,000 euros (nearly $1 million) was paid to Zaragoza’s squad and later transferred to Levante’s players to lose the match in the final round of the season. Zaragoza won 2-1 to avoid relegation. Deportivo La Coruna was demoted as a result.

Former Zaragoza officials said the money was paid to motivate players, not fix the result of the game.

Prosecutors said players on both teams were aware of the match-fixing and there was evidence the money was transferred to Levante players after analyzing tax reports and banking transactions at the time.

The judge said in his ruling “there were was no evidence the money was given to Levante players to lose the match.”

A lower court had shelved the case but it was reopened last year after an appeal by prosecutors in Valencia, where Levante is based and where the match was played.

Zaragoza returned to the second division in 2014. Levante is currently in Spain’s top league.

Spanish police investigate match-fixing in La Liga

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A match-fixing complaint filed by La Liga has led to arrests in Spain.

The match was played in May 2018, and the league said its been informed of eight suspected matches this season which could have included match-fixing.

The BBC says current and former players as well as club executives “from the top two divisions” have been detained during the investigation.

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In a statement, La Liga said its “integrity protection systems” detected unusual betting patterns in the matches. From Sky Sports:

“We want to thank the National Police for the extraordinary work done to dismantle what appears to be an organised criminal group dedicated to obtaining economic benefits through the predetermination of football matches.”

Additionally, 18 players bet on the outcome of matches this season.

FIFA bans former referee for life for bribery, match-fixing

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GENEVA (AP) One of soccer’s most infamous match-fixing cases was settled Thursday when a referee notorious for corrupt calls was banned for life.

The corrupt games in Ibrahim Chaibou’s career were key to revealing how easily international friendlies could be manipulated for betting scams, forced FIFA to change the rules for appointing referees, and helped expose the influence of convicted fixer Wilson Perumal.

“Chaibou was probably the most corrupt referee the game of football has seen,” former FIFA investigator Chris Eaton told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Still, it took more than eight years to confirm his life ban from any involvement in soccer. FIFA ethics committee judges found the referee from Niger guilty of taking bribes to corrupt international friendly games in 2010 and 2011, soccer’s world governing body said.

Chaibou was fined 200,000 Swiss francs ($201,000), though it is unclear what power FIFA has to make the long-retired referee pay. He can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Niger official was paid bribes to influence the outcome of national-team games played in Africa, the Middle East and South America.

His favored tactic was awarding questionable penalty kicks – often for real and imagined handball offenses – to help increase the number of goals scored.

FIFA did not specify which games its ethics committee took into account when judging Chaibou.

However, his most suspect games are well established.

In May 2010, a warmup game for World Cup host South Africa in Polokwane ended in a 5-0 win over Guatemala. Chaibou awarded three penalties for handball and South Africa scored two of them. Betting monitoring agencies noted a spike in wagers on at least three goals being scored in the game.

In September 2010, Bahrain won 3-0 against a team making itself out to be Togo’s national team but which was actually a group of impostor players. Chaibou’s job that time was to limit the number of goals scored, according to evidence from Perumal after his arrest.

Both games in 2010 were organized by Perumal from Singapore, whose agency could be hired by national soccer federations to organize a game and provide the referee.

FIFA leadership was then not alert to the spreading risk of match-fixing. Its official line immediately after the Bahrain-Togo fiasco was not to investigate because neither member federation had complained.

Chaibou was then appointed for national team games in Bolivia and Ecuador, and oversaw another notorious incident when Nigeria hosted Argentina in June 2011.

With Nigeria leading 4-0 late on, Chaibou allowed the game to continue beyond the allotted stoppage time and then awarded Argentina a penalty for a non-existent handball against defender Efe Ambrose. A 4-1 result paid out bets of five goals to be scored.

“I judged it to be a penalty, so I gave a penalty … to make everyone happy. That’s it,” Chaibou told the AP in a telephone interview for an article published in February 2013.

Eaton, who opened FIFA’s investigation of Chaibou before leaving in 2012, said Perumal described his favored referee as courageous for awarding suspect penalties late in games.

“It wasn’t courage, it was pure unadulterated corrupt greed,” said Eaton, a former detective and Interpol official. He praised FIFA for pursuing the referee long after Chaibou’s mandatory retirement from the international list of approved referees after turning 45 in 2011.

“It’s a well-deserved shaming of the man who disgraced African football more than any other,” Eaton said.

FIFA bans coach for 2 years in World Cup match-fixing case

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has banned a former El Salvador coach for two years for his role in offering players money to perform well in a World Cup qualifying game, and thereby help his native Honduras.

FIFA ethics committee judges found Ramon Maradiaga guilty of “bribery and corruption” and failing to report the plot, soccer’s world governing body said Wednesday.

El Salvador’s players were offered cash by a third party if they managed to win – or at least avoid losing by two goals or more – in a qualifier against Canada in September 2016. A big defeat risked helping Canada progress ahead of Honduras. It’s against FIFA rules for third parties to offer cash incentives to teams.

FIFA said Maradiaga let the meeting happen “in which financial compensation was promised to the players in exchange for their altering the result of the game between El Salvador and Canada.”

However, El Salvador players revealed the cash offer at a news conference before the game in Vancouver.

Maradiaga captained Honduras at the 1982 World Cup, the first time the Central American qualified for the tournament.

He was also fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,000), FIFA said.

Honduras progressed from the regional qualifying group by drawing 0-0 with Mexico in its final game, meaning Canada could not advance despite a 3-1 win over El Salvador.

Honduras ultimately did not qualify for the World Cup in Russia, losing an intercontinental playoff against Australia last November.

A previous match-fixing scandal forced El Salvador to rebuild its national team for the 2018 qualifying program.

FIFA imposed a range of lifetime bans and other suspensions on players who were involved in fixing games, including a 5-0 loss to Mexico at the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Epic fail: Soccer refs banned after match-fixing goes wrong

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BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) Four soccer referees in the southern African country of Malawi have been banned for life for match-fixing after they received just $20 between them to fix a game and returned $15 to the team doing the bribing because it still lost.

Referee Aziz Nyirenda, assistant referees Limbani Chisambi and Stephano Gomani, and fourth official Jimmy Phiri, were all found guilty of fixing a national cup match between lower league team Nchalo United and Chitipa United.

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The match-fixing was revealed after Nchalo United, the team that bribed the refs, lost in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw and demanded its money back. When the referees could only stump up $15, Nchalo went to the authorities.

No sanctions have been announced against the team but there is a case against Nchalo pending.

The life ban for the four officials was announced by the Malawian referees association.

Although the result wasn’t what they were aiming for, Malawi National Referees Association general secretary Chris Kalichero said there was still an “element of game-fixing” by the officials and “when you commit such a crime, a life ban is the punishment.”

Chisambi, one of the assistant referees, denied wrongdoing, saying “”I never took (a) share of the money. It is so sad that my career has ended in this manner.”

Last year, another referee in Malawi was banned for life for incompetence.