Sunday, December 16, 2007

Soccer corruption trial begins in Poland

Seventeen Polish soccer players and officials went on trial Friday in an alleged massive match-fixing scandal after the arrest of 100 suspects.

The defendants are linked to the Arka Gdynia second division club and face charges of offering and accepting bribes and membership of an organized criminal group.

The alleged ringleader, identified only as Ryszard F. under Polish privacy laws, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted by a provincial court in the southwestern city of Wroclaw . He was detained last year on charges of fixing first and second-league matches from 2000-06 and accepting an equivalent of $130,000 (€100,000.) He has confessed to accepting a bribe once and witnessing one other such case.

The other suspects face up to five years imprisonment.

Many of them are also suspects in investigations of match-rigging by other soccer clubs.

Prosecutors, who have been investigating the allegations since 2005, said over 400 domestic matches were fixed.

Last week, the Wroclaw court handed verdicts of suspended prison terms ranging from three to seven years in a deal with 17 other soccer officials, who pleaded guilty without trial. They were also ordered to pay back the accepted bribes.

Poland and Ukraine will jointly host the 2012 European Championship.