Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona has acquitted a man accused of acting as an intermediary in a Europe-wide football match-fixing scandal, which originally broke in 2009.
The Swiss Attorney General’s Office had demanded that the 30-year-old defendant – a Bosnian man residing in canton Bern - receive a suspended sentence and be fined. But on Tuesday the Ticino-based court sided with the defence, which pleaded for his complete acquittal.
The defendant was charged with helping two accomplices in Germany between 2008 and 2009, who were running a football match-fixing scam using online betting sites based in Asia. According to the Attorney General's Office, the defendant’s role was to establish contact with “susceptible” football players and to encourage them to participate in the scam, after which he was to pay them.
According to the prosecution, these scams would have earned in less than six months nearly CHF458,000 ($455,000), of which CHF15,000 would have been pocketed by the defendant.
But to prove professional fraud, the prosecution had to establish that individuals were actually harmed by the scam, the court said, whereas the indictment did not state precise damages.
In addition to being acquitted, the defendant will receive CHF1,000 ($993) in compensation, plus CHF11,600 for time spent in detention, and other damages amounting to CHF2,000.
It is the second time the defendant has appeared before the Federal Criminal Court. After a first trial in 2012, the court sent the case to the Attorney General’s Office, where a deal was reached for a simplified procedure. But this deal was turned down and the Attorney General's Office had to file a new case.
In 2012, the Federal Criminal Court also acquitted three former players of football clubs FC Gossau and FC Thun, who were accused of fraud for manipulating the results of several Swiss Challenge League matches in 2009. The court acquitted them on the grounds that fraud is the deception of a person and not of electronic bookmakers or gambling machines. They were tried for fraud, as sporting fraud is not a crime in Swiss law.
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 trial. He ruled that two of the players, who are still active and had denied taking part in the manipulations, should also be compensated.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/cl