In a major blow against football corruption, a court in Bochum, Germany, has jailed match-fixing mastermind Ante Sapina for five years six months. An accomplice, referred to only as Marijo C, was jailed for the same term.
Sapina had been found guilty of organising a network which paid players, referees and officials to fix at least 51 matches including qualifying ties in the UEFA Champions League and World Cup.
The long-running trial heard that Sapina had benefited to the tune of E2.4m in betting, mostly in Asia, on matches for which he knew the ultimate result.
The Croat has already spent two years and 11 months in prison for his involvement in the notorious Robert Hoyzer case. Hoyzer had been bribed by Sapina and other associates into fixing the results of several German second division and cup games in 2004.
The prosecutor had demanded more severe sentences of seven and six years respectively for Sapina and his associate. Prosecutor Andreas Bachmann had told Sapina: “You knowingly manipulated competitions and must thus be regarded as an enemy of sport through self-interest.”
In April three lesser members of Sapina’s network had been sentenced to jail terms of between three years and 11 months.
The case had been considered as bringing to light the worst match-fixing project in the history of European football. Matches involved included a 2010 World Cup qualifier between Liechtenstein and Finland, a Champions League tie between Hungary’s Debrecen and Fiorentina in October 2009, four Europa League matches and other domestic league matches in the top two divisions in Belgium, Switzerland and Turkey.
The Debrecen-Fiorentina game went all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which annulled a UEFA suspension imposed on Norbert Meszaros but maintained a two-year ban on his team mate Vukasin Poleksic for failing to report an approach to fix the game.
Two weeks ago FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced that the world federation was invested E20m in an anti-corruption drive together with Interpol and which include setting up a monitoring centre in Singapore. [Source: Sports Feature]