Report: Maltese soccer cheat handed 10-year suspension

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Maltese soccer player Kevin Sammut has been kicked out of the sport for 10 years for match fixing. UEFA confirmed on Aug. 20 that the player rigged a game during the qualifying stages for the 2008 European Championships (Euro 2008). Malta was beaten 4-0 by Norway in the game which took place back in June of 2007. However, UEFA didn’t say how exactly the midfielder was involved.

The 31-year-old Sammut has played 37 times for Malta since 2005 and claims he hasn’t done anything wrong. He currently plays in his homeland with a club named Valletta. Two other players were also charged after evidence was presented by Malta’s Football Association. Soccer officials launched an investigation into the game after it was mentioned during a match-fixing trial last year in Germany that it was rigged. The other two players, Stephen Wellman and Kenneth Scicluna were cleared by UEFA since the organization didn’t have enough evidence to find them guilty.

Norman Darmanin Demajo, president of the Maltese FA, said there was overwhelming proof of a match fix involving team national players and organized crime. However, he refused to elaborate on the details. Sammut is suspended from all soccer-related activity and UEFA will request FIFA to make sure the ban is global. The player is allowed to appeal the decision and could also take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The lead to the match-fixing case was provided by a Croatian gang member named Marijo Cvrtak. He told a German court that he met with three members of the Maltese national team in an Oslo, Norway hotel before the game and they said they would arrange something. Norway led the game 1-0 at halftime and Sammut was then replaced by a substitute. Norway managed to add three goals in the last 18 minutes to earn a 4-0 victory. The margin of victory meant that many gamblers won their bets. Wellman and Scicluna played the entire 90 minutes of the contest.

Sammut said he’ll be appealing his 10-year ban as it’s unjust. He said he can’t make a deal with UEFA for a reduced sentence because he doesn’t know anything about the match-fixing allegations. The Maltese FA said they believe Sammut didn’t act alone and revealed that 200,000 Euros were wagered on the outcome of the game.

Malta ended up in last place in the qualifying group for Euro 2008 with Norway finishing third and also missing out on the tournament. Court heard that Cvrtak and his crime syndicate made millions of Euros by bribing officials, referees, and players. They helped manipulate the outcome of games and huge bets were paid off, most of which were made in Asia.

The criminal gang also said it fixed a qualifying game for the 2010 World Cup between Finland and Liechtenstein. It was reported that a referee from Bosnia was paid $52,000 to guarantee that two goals would be scored during the game’s second half. The game was 0-0 at halftime and ended up 1-1.

One of the goals was scored on a penalty kick and the referee has been handed a lifetime suspension from soccer. The court found Cvrtak guilty on 26 counts of attempted fraud and fraud and one of his cohorts was found guilty on 22 counts. They were both handed 5 1/2 years jail sentences.


Written by Ian Palmer

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