Integrity in sport update: ESSA report cites tennis as biggest target for match-fixers

It has been a busy week for the INTERPOL Integrity in Sport unit. As part of our global initiative, we have held events in the Americas: a dedicated training workshop for CONCACAF integrity officers; a training for Law Enforcement on how to investigate match-fixing; and a Partnership Development Meeting to develop a coordinated national strategy to protect the integrity of sport.

It has also been a busy week in the media in relation to match-fixing. Hristiyan Ilievski, a Macedonian national who is the suspected leader of a gang that allegedly corrupted Italian footballers, including players in Serie A and Serie B, as part of an international betting-related match-fixing scam, has turned himself in to police.

In Norway, three third division players were among five men jailed after they were found guilty of fraud and corruption in the country's first match-fixing trial. The trio -- Drin Shala and Formose Pape Mendy of Follo and Alban Shipshani of Asker -- were charged with accepting money to fix results. As part of our mandate to raise awareness of contemporary issues related to match-fixing in football, the INTERPOL Integrity in Sport unit compiles an overview of the main stories in the media related to current investigations, sanctions and sentences, illegal betting and best practice.

Please find below our recap for the week. We look forward to providing you with these reports on a weekly basis and please feel free to share this information with members of your organization. We also invite you to follow us on Twitter (@INTERPOL_SPORT) to stay up-to-date with the latest stories and news.

 

CURRENT INVESTIGATION

Greece

27 April 2015 - 3 May 2015 

Widespread match-fixing allegations in Greek football hardened as Evangelos Marinakis, the Olympiacos owner and president, was charged by prosecutors with a series of alleged offences. Marinakis, a shipping tycoon who took a majority stake in the 42- times Greek champions in 2010, has been implicated by prosecutors probing allegations of match-fixing in a sweeping anti- corruption inquiry into Greek football. The Olympiacos president is among 16 people who are accused of involvement in a match-fixing ring and was charged alongside three referees, three other officials from the Hellenic Football Federation, two members of its Central Refereeing Committee and a fellow Super League club chairman. Marinakis is accused of being involved in a criminal organisation, of incitement to extortion, of having incited an explosion endangering human life and of the instigation of bribery and corruption aimed at the successful manipulation of football matches offered in betting markets. He denies all four charges.

Source: Matt Scott, "Greek corruption: Olympiacos owner charged in match-fixing ring round-up ", 28 April 2015, Inside World Football https://www.insideworldfootball.com/world-football/europe/16904-greek-corruption-olympiacos-owner-charged-in-match-fixing-ring-round-up

 

Italy

Hristiyan Ilievski, a Macedonian national who is the suspected leader of a gang that allegedly corrupted Italian footballers, including players in Serie A and Serie B, as part of an international betting-related matchfixing scam, has turned himself in to police. Ilievski had been a fugitive from justice since 2011. The fact that he has turned himself in at Orio al Serio, near the northern city of Bergamo, could indicate that he is willing to cooperate with prosecutors and give evidence. He is the leader of criminal gang nicknamed the 'zingari' (the gypsies) and is at the centre of a big Cremona-based investigation. That probe led to a series of bans and fines for players involved and its consequences could continue.

Source: "Soccer: Head of match-fixing gang turns self in - update 2", 27 April 2015, Gazzetta del Sud https://www.gazzettadelsud.it/news/english/139309/Soccer--Head-of-match-fixing-gang-turns-self-in---update-2.html

 

Romania

Romanian club Pandurii Targu-Jiu have suspended their president Eugen Pirvulescu for three months while an investigation takes place into possible match-fixing. The match under investigation is their 1-0 home defeat by relegation-threatened Universitatea Cluj-Napoca on April 20. Doubts arose among Pandurii shareholders after Pirvulescu allegedly met with Universitatea officials before the game. Pundurii's performance on the pitch prompted angry fans to call players and club officials "thieves" after the final whistle. "I'm not afraid of anything," Pirvulescu said. "I want this investigation to go ahead, I want to clear my image." Pandurii, who finished second in Romania's top flight in 2013, are ninth in the standings with 35 points from 29 matches after beating Dinamo Bucharest 3-2 on Tuesday. The Romanian football federation's integrity and fraud department said in a statement that it is familiar with the decision and will act to clarify the case. 

Source: "Football - Romanian club suspend president amid match-fixing suspicions", 29 April 2015, Reuters https://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/news/football-romanian-club-suspend-president-amid-match-fixing-164816493--sow.html

 

Turkey

Turkish Football Federation (TFF) President Yildirim Demiroren testified as a witness in the ongoing trial on allegations of match- fixing by Turkish teams. Former Besiktas manager Serdal Adali, another suspect in the case, has denied charges of rigging, denying claims that he gifted his horse to former Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyespor player Ibrahim Akin. In his testimony, Demiroren -- who was the chairman of Besiktas at the time matches are alleged to have been rigged -- told the judge that Akin's name was on the transfer committee's list, but that the player had been rejected. Akin reportedly confessed during his testimony that Besiktas pledged to offer him a position with their club if he agreed to not score any goals during the final match. Among the suspects are former Giresunspor Chairman Olgun Peker, Fenerbahce Chairman Aziz Yildirim, Sivasspor Chairman Mecnun Odyakmaz, Fenerbahce manager Ilhan Eksioglu and Fenerbahce Financial Affairs Manager Tamer Yelkovan. Eleven other suspects also attended the hearing.

Source: "TFF head Demiroren testifies as witness in match-fixing trial", 3 May 2015, Today's Zaman https://www.todayszaman.com/latest-news_tff-head-demiroren-testifies-as-witness-in-match-fixing-trial_279285.html

 

United States

Paul Phua has been winning some notable legal victories as of late, making the case against him for allegedly running an illegal sports betting operation out of a Caesars Palace villa last summer look shakier than ever. And with the amount of usable evidence against him shrinking and his legal team feeling more confident, his lawyers are now asking that the case be dropped entirely. That request comes on the heels of a ruling by US District Judge Andrew Gordon, who found last week that the FBI’s tactics in collecting evidence against Phua were unconstitutional. Since that ruling, defense lawyers David Chesnoff and Daniel Bogdon have made several filings, including a request that the case be thrown out entirely.

Source: Greg Shaun, "Paul Phua Lawyers Want Case Dismissed", 29 April 2015, Poket Sites https://www.pokersites.com/news/paul-phua-lawyers-want-case-dismissed-6400

 

GOOD PRACTICE

CONCACAF

CONCACAF is to assign an integrity officer to each of the teams in this July's Gold Cup, the confederation's premier national team tournament. The officers will travel and stay with the teams to discourage approaches from match-fixers. "The integrity officers will act as a person to contact in case someone needs to report an approach but will also provide information to the teams about the threat of match-fixing and hold integrity presentations," said Dr. Laila Mintas, Director of Sports Integrity at CONCACAF. Last week the confederation completed a three-day 'Train the Trainer' integrity workshop in Miami. Held in association with INTERPOL and FIFA, 19 participants from eight countries were provided with instruction on how to recognise approaches by match-fixers, as well how to lead workshops to educate players, referees, coaches and officials on the dangers and warning signs of match-fixing. The CONCACAF Integrity Officer Program was established in May 2014 and has been a great success. Through the end of 2014, CONCACAF has addressed awareness and education training at more than 45 events and workshops across the region, connecting in a direct way with more than 3,350 individuals.

Source: Paul Nicholson, "Gold Cup teams to get integrity officers to police match-fixing threat ", 30 April 2015, Inside World Football https://www.insideworldfootball.com/world-football/football-americas/concacaf-news/16920-gold-cup-teams-to-get-integrity-officers-to-police-match-fixing-threat

 

ODDS AND ENDS

ESSA

In its first quarterly report, the sports betting integrity body ESSA has revealed that tennis is the sport most targeted by match- fixers. The integrity watchdog revealed that over the first three months of this year, 49 alerts were raised over unusual or suspicious betting pattern such as atypical bet sizes or volumes that continue even after prices are corrected to deter such activity. When such alerts are created, ESSA checks with all its members to ensure the unusual activity is not simply a result of human error such as incorrect pricing, and if no clear reason can be found, it is seen as suspicious and most likely an attempt to fix the event. A total of 24 of the alerts generated in Q1 were deemed suspicious, with the majority concerning tennis matches. Tennis was responsible for more than half the total alerts, and 17 of the 24 deemed suspicious, far ahead of any other sport.


Source: "ESSA: Tennis the main target of match fixers", 1 May 2015, Gaming Intelligence https://www.gamingintelligence.com/legal/31656-essa-tennis-the-main-target-of-match-fixers

 

Greece

Greek football has been in the grip of a match-fixing and corruption culture for 20 years, a special Insideworldfootball investigation has found. But, as the stakes have risen with the increasing riches available in football, in recent seasons the system of match manipulation has reached breaking point. The Greek courts are pursuing an investigation into allegations of organised criminality that has penetrated the game, with more than two dozen senior Hellenic Football Federation [HFF] and club officials charged in recent days. There are several serious charges the officials are facing. One, that of a membership of a 'criminal organisation', carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years. After conducting a series of exclusive interviews with key figures from across football in Greece, Insideworldfootball reveals in a special report how illegal betting brings a slew of dishonest results; referees are routinely selected according to their willingness to fix matches; HFF elections are rigged to appoint favourable candidates; and the status quo is maintained by threats, intimidation and violence.


Source: Matt Scott, "Special report: Greek corruption 'cancer' reaches to the heart of 'The System' and Match-fixers run reign of violent terror from inside Greek football", 30 April 2015, Insideworldfootball https://www.insideworldfootball.com/world-football/europe/16925-special-report-greek-corruption-cancer-reaches-to-the-heart-of-the-system and https://www.insideworldfootball.com/world-football/europe/16933-greek-corruption-match-fixers-run-reign-of-violent-terror-from-inside-football

 

SENTENCES/SANCTIONS

Germany

A Dutch national who has appeared in court in Germany for fixing football matches will not face jail time after judges ruled German law is not applicable in his case. Paul R told the court he had bribed players from German club Sankt Pauli and then bet on the outcome via Asian betting agencies. However, as the deals were struck in the Netherlands, he cannot be tried in Germany, the court said. Paul R was extradited to Germany in January and is suspected of involvement in large-scale match- fixing in 2008 and 2009. He is also considered to be a central figure in an international match-fixing ring. R, known as ‘Rooie Paul’, comes from Noordwijk and was in jail in the Netherlands for fencing stolen paintings. Two other men on trial, a former Sankt Pauli player and a middleman, were found not guilty because of a lack of evidence.

Source: "Dutch football match fixer released by German court", 1 May 2015, Dutch News https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2015/05/dutch-football-match-fixer-released-by-german-court/

 

Norway

Three Norwegian third division players were among five men jailed after they were found guilty of fraud and corruption in the country's first match-fixing trial. The trio -- Drin Shala and Formose Pape Mendy of Follo and Alban Shipshani of Asker -- were charged with accepting money to fix results. Two other players were acquitted by Oslo's District Court. After a three-week trial in which the court heard secret recordings of telephone conversations and details of illicit meetings in Sweden where offers were made to fix results, Shala and Shipsani were handed prison sentences of eight months each, with Mendy receiving six months. All three players have said they will appeal the verdicts. The charges related to games played by the Asker and Follo clubs in the third tier of Norwegian football in 2012.

Source: Philip O'Connor, "Three players jailed for match-fixing in Norway", 29 April 2015, Reuters https://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/04/29/uk-soccer-norway-matchfixing-idUKKBN0NK1PT20150429

 

United Kingdom

A former Premier League footballer has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after being convicted of match fixing allegations. Delroy Facey, of Woodhouse Hill, Huddersfield, was found guilty at Birmingham Crown Court of conspiring to bribe non-league players. Former non-league player Moses Swaibu, 25, of Tooley Street, London, was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit bribery. He was jailed for 16 months for his part in the conspiracy. The two were arrested as part of a National Crime Agency investigation into match fixing. The trial heard Facey urged a footballer at a struggling non-league club to make some "easy money" by fixing the result of a match. He also told a contact some Football Conference teams would "do" a game in return for payment, the jury heard.

Source: "Ex-footballer Delroy Facey jailed after match fixing trial", 29 April 2015, BBC https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-32512704

 

Zimbabwe

Sunday Chidzambwa's life ban by ZIFA, for his alleged involvement in the Asiagate match-fixing saga, has been lifted with immediate effect, giving the country's most successful football coach the green light to resume his career on the domestic front. Chidzambwa, the first coach to take the Warriors to the Nations Cup finals in Tunisia in 2004, was banned for life by the association in 2012, after a series of hearings conducted by the Justice Ebrahim Commission into the saga. The ban was not endorsed by FIFA, despite ZIFA's spirited efforts, and it meant that Chidzambwa, who had moved to South Africa at the time, was allowed to continue working in that country as coach of Black Leopards. Another person, who had also been banned for life, goalkeeper Edmore "ZiKeeper" Sibanda, also had his ban lifted, giving him the green light to resume his career on the domestic scene and he could be playing for Division One side, Gunners, soon.

Source: "Zimbabwe: Zifa Lift Sunday's Ban", 29 April 2015, The Herald https://allafrica.com/stories/201504290282.html 

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