A trial has opened in Switzerland involving three Swiss League football players and an intermediary, accused of being part of one of the biggest match-fixing scandals in European football history.
Two former goalkeepers for FC Gossau, a second-division side from canton St Gallen, appeared before the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona on Thursday.
The men are accused of being complicit in professional fraud for their involvement in an international match-fixing and illegal betting ring.
In November 2009, news broke that investigators working for the public prosecutors’ office in the German city of Bochum had identified 200 matches in nine European countries – Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland and Turkey – where manipulation was believed to have taken place.
In all, 22 Swiss league matches and six friendlies were thought to have been rigged.
In 2009, one of the keepers allegedly became a recruiter and intermediary within the gang. He supposedly contacted FC Gossau team mates to discuss tactics just before kick-off.
At the opening of the trial he admitted attempts were made to manipulate matches and that he had received money to this effect. But he said as a goalkeeper he had always given his best during games. His co-defendant rejected the accusations and denied involvement in any fixing.
Thursday’s trial concerns five Challenge League matches in 2009, which are said to have been fixed: FC Gossau - FC Locarno (0-4), FC Servette - FC Gossau (4-0) in May; FC Lugano - FC Gossau (7-0) in September, and FC Gossau - FC Vaduz (1-4) in November.
A fifth match between FC Locarno and FC Gossau in August was also allegedly rigged.
International betting ring
An international gang used European-Asian betting platforms to place bets just before each game. Informers helped control the match result and buy players.
Thursday’s trial will be followed on November 12 by two other trials involving a former FC Thun goalkeeper and a recruiter for the fixing ring. The four defendants are accused of receiving between SFr1,700-12,000 ($1,800-12,700) for their participation.
Verdicts are expected on November 13.
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.
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.
The Bellinzona trials come as the Swiss cabinet presented a new report on the fight against corruption and match-fixing in sport on Wednesday.
Measures are currently being examined to make fraud in sport a criminal offence, which may involve the tightening of Swiss corruption legislation. The justice ministry and sports office have been requested to come up with specific changes to Swiss law.
The long-awaited 70-page report said anti-corruption measures currently taken by international sports associations were insufficient and “more robust action” was needed.
Switzerland is currently home to over 40 international sports federations such as Fifa, football’s world governing body, Uefa, its European counterpart, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The authorities must examine whether members of national and international sport associations based in Switzerland should be made subject to the Swiss criminal law on corruption.
The report also called for “harmonised and binding” good governance systems.
“What is at stake is not just sport's integrity but also Switzerland's reputation as the home to numerous international sports associations,” the government said in a statement.
In a statement on Thursday, Fifa said it considered the efforts made by the government to support sports associations and organisations in the fight against corruption and match-fixing as a positive sign for the protection of the integrity of sport and its environment.
The complexity of the problems inherent in fighting corruption and match-fixing called for systematic self-regulation as well as state measures, it added.
“Fifa recognises the need for action at state level and is pleased to note that the measures it has implemented as part of its reform process are mentioned in the report as a milestone,” it said in the statement.
Focus on FIFA
Football’s world governing body has been dogged by allegations of corruption for many years.
In 2008 a judicial case in Zug implicated unnamed Fifa officials in a multi-million dollar kickback scandal involving bankrupt sport marketing firm ISMM-ISL. The identities of the officials were withheld following a financial settlement of the case.
In October 2011, Fifa announced the formation of four task forces to look at the revision of statutes, ethics, transparency and compliance and the running of the next World Cup in 2014.
In December 2011, Mark Pieth, chairman of Fifa’s Independant Governance Committee, recommended measures to clean up Fifa.
On July 12, 2012, the Swiss federal court ordered the release of documents containing the names of former Fifa officials who had taken bribes. Former Fifa president Joao Havelange and the former head of Brazilian football Ricardo Teixeira were named in the document.end of infobox
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