Three Swiss League football players accused of fraud were acquitted on Tuesday by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona on the grounds that fraud is the deception of a person and not of electronic bookmakers or gambling machines.
The players, who had played for FC Gossau and FC Thun, had been accused of throwing games in the Challenge League in 2009, as part of an international match-fixing and illegal betting ring which primarily had an effect on electronic betting in Asia.
The judge ruled that while the alleged match-fixing on the football field would indeed involve deception of spectators, fans, and clubs, that was not the subject of the current trial. He ruled that two of the players, who are still active and had denied taking part in the manipulations, should be compensated – one with SFr16,500 ($17,418) and the other with SFr26,000 ($27,446).
Federal prosecutor Olivier Thormann said on Tuesday he was disappointed with the verdict. He had hoped for a pioneering decision that would protect the world from betting manipulation in the future. He planned to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to appeal, he told the media.
A week earlier, in releasing a new report on the fight aganst corruption, the Swiss cabinet had expressed an interest in closing the gaps in the related criminal law by proposing a new offence - “sporting fraud”.
The football scandal, which first came to light in November 2009, potentially involved manipulation of 200 matches in nine European countries – Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland and Turkey.
The Swiss trial involved five Challenge League matches played in 2009: FC Gossau - FC Locarno (0-4), FC Servette - FC Gossau (4-0); FC Lugano - FC Gossau (7-0), and FC Gossau - FC Vaduz (1-4).
The Swiss Football Association was the first federation to sanction football players with alleged ties to the ring. Nine Swiss League players – seven professionals and two amateurs from Thun, Gossau, Fribourg and Wil – were suspended for at least one year in May 2010.
In 2011, a Bochum court sentenced a Croat living in Berlin to five-and-a-half years in prison for professional fraud as head of the international match-fixing ring.