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Trial Brings Match-Rigging Back in Focus

German soccer was shamed when referee Robert Hoyzer admitted fixing nine matches in 2004. Things got worse when a criminal network was uncovered. The scandal returns as the trial of those involved starts Tuesday.

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Whistle blower: Hoyzer's testimony led to the exposure of a crime cartel

It was the scandal that dulled the shine on Germany’s successful campaign to host the 2006 World Cup. On Tuesday, the specter of match-fixing and corruption in German soccer rears its ugly head once again when the disgraced Bundesliga referee Robert Hoyzer and five others come to court to face fraud charges.

Hoyzer and his alleged cohorts are at the center of Germany’s biggest sporting embarrassment; a scandal involving crooked match officials, greedy and corrupt players and a network of gangsters which stretched from Germany to Turkey and beyond.

The affair tells the story of games thrown for money, a widespread illegal betting cartel and the threats and intimidation that went with instigating a match-rigging operation which threatened to undermine the very structure of soccer in Germany.

Trial likely to coincide with World Cup draw

Tuesday's opening session in Berlin's superior court will reopen wounds inflicted on the game that have barely had time to scab over. And with the World Cup due to kick off in less than nine months, German soccer authorities are hoping that the trial is concluded swiftly. An on-going process dealing with the most sordid episode in the German game for 30 years would hardly be the best byline for the headlines trumpeting the start of Germany’s moment in the global soccer sun.

With full and partial confessions from all but one of the defendants, the trial is unlikely to still be going on by the time the first ball is kicked on June 8, 2006. However, with sessions initially scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays and with lawyers in the case predicting anything from six to 12 sessions needed to conclude the case, it will almost certainly still be going on when the sport's most powerful figures gather in Leipzig before the draw for the World Cup tournament on December 9.

Disgraced referee Hoyzer back in the spotlight

Robert Hoyzer Schiedsrichter Affäre

Robert Hoyzer went underground after his release

The trial will bring Robert Hoyzer back into the spotlight and will lay bare once more the details of the 26-year old’s involvement as a central figure in the scandal.

The Berlin-based former referee officiated at matches in the second division and lower leagues in the Bundesliga but hit the headlines after it was revealed at the start of 2005 that he took a bribe to throw the result of the German Cup first round game between top flight side Hamburg SV and regional league side Paderborn on August 21, 2004.

Hamburg had been leading 2-0, but went on to lose 4-2 after Hoyzer awarded Paderborn two penalties and sent off Hamburg striker Emile Mpenza.

Schiedsrichter Rober Hoyzer, Spiel HSV gegen SC Paderborn

Sergei Barbarez remonstrates with Hoyzer in the notorious match

As the investigation went on, it was revealed that Hoyzer may have been involved with the fixing or attempted fixing of nine matches in total. According to reports at the time, further investigation into Hoyzer uncovered that he was paid bribes totaling 67,000 euros and was given a flat-screen television.

He was arrested in February and spent two weeks in custody. During his time in incarceration, Hoyzer co-operated with Berlin prosecutors and the German Football Association (DFB), who later banned him for life. He faces 11 charges at trial, including complicity to defraud.

Official and shamed player face rigging charges

As well as Hoyer, referee Dominik Marks and former top flight player Steffen Karl are charged with involvement in the rigging of matches between April and December last year.

Schiedsrichterskandal

Dominik Marks maintains his innocence

Marks has been accused of fixing two matches by Hoyzer, one in the second division and the other in the regional northern league. He was arrested in March 9 and spent four weeks in custody under suspicion of match-fixing. Despite maintaining his innocence, Marks faces five charges.

Karl, a former defensive midfielder for Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin, is accused of throwing games for financial gain and faces five charges.

All three are accused of involvement under the orders of three Croatian brothers who betted on the results. It is thought that Ante Sapina, one of the brothers and the alleged gambling ringleader, made over 1 million euros ($1.20 million) on two rigged matches alone.

Croatians at the heart of betting cartel

Ante, at 27 the youngest of the three Sapina brothers, faces 42 charges including the running of an illegal match-fixing operation. The 40-year old eldest brother Milan faces 11 charges of betting on rigged matches while 37-year old Filip, who has apparently co-operated with investigators, faces four similar charges.

The defendants will be required to enter a plea at the beginning of the trial with all – except Marks – expected to plead guilty. The offences could bring jail terms of up to 10 years, although lawyers from the defense counsel hope that the confessions and a lack of previous convictions will lead to sentences nearer the one year minimum.

Investigation uncovers widespread corruption

In total, Berlin prosecutors have investigated 25 people in connection with the scandal, many of whom are suspected of having been involved in manipulating at least 10 matches in 2004. There have also been 14 players investigated, from second division clubs Energie Cottbus, Dynamo Dresden and regional sides Chemnitzer FC, Kickers Offenbach and SC Paderborn.

Prosecutors have also seized 2.44 million euros in bank accounts and of assets belonging to the three Sapina brothers during February raids.

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