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Match-fixing kingpin Ante Sapina goes on re-trial in Germany

The retrial of Europe’s most notorious match-fixer has opened in the German city of Bochum. He is accused of being part of an international network manipulating matches in Europe, Asia, Australia and the United States.

The local court in the west German city of Bochum reopened the case of Ante Sapina on Wednesday. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison in 2011 for heading an operation manipulating dozens of soccer matches.

The Croatian-German Sapina and an accomplice had confessed to having manipulated 51 matches in the European Champions League and World Cup qualifiers by bribing players and referees in 2008 and 2009.

But the verdict was appealed by both sides and then annulled by a higher court which found several procedural errors, and the case referred back to Bochum for a re-trial.

The question is now whether the five-year sentence was appropriate.

The defense argues that the sentence was too harsh, as 28 incidents of match manipulation involving Asian betting operations failed, meaning no one suffered financial losses.

The prosecution, however, wants to investigate claims that Sapina was a leading member of an international criminal organization – which might even lead to an increased sentence.

The international scope of match-fixing operations has come under fresh scrutiny, with soccer just one of several sports affected. Tennis and basketball have also been plagued by corruption. New findings have also shown that many of the illegal operations were conducted not solely in Europe, as originally suspected, but also in the Philippines.

A verdict is expected on January 31, 2014.

Ante Sapina was found guilty of separate charges of match-fixing in 2005 when he was sentenced to two years and 11 months in prison for bribing referee Robert Hoyzer in Germany's most high-profile match-fixing case.

rg/ccp (dpa, SID)