Malta player banned for 10 years for Euro 2008 fix

(AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky, file)

NYON, Switzerland (AP) UEFA has banned Malta player Kevin Sammut for 10 years for helping to fix a 2008 European Championship qualifying match, the Malta Football Association said Monday.

One of the highest-level prosecutions of football corruption followed claims made by members of a Croatian crime syndicate who stood trial for match-fixing last year in Bochum, Germany.

Sammut has denied helping to manipulate the result of Malta's 4-0 loss away to Norway in June 2007.

However, the Malta FA said the UEFA disciplinary body reached a verdict on Friday that bans Sammut from "any football-related activity."

"FIFA will be requested to extend this ban, so as to give it a worldwide effect," the MFA said in a statement.

The 31-year-old Sammut can challenge the sanction at UEFA's appeals panel, and then the Court of Arbitration for Sport - though without the support of his national federation.

"He will decide, it is his case," MFA general secretary Joe Gauci told The Associated Press by telephone.

UEFA charged Sammut after the MFA investigated allegations made in court by Marijo Cvrtak, a leading member of a Croatian gang headed by convicted match-fixer Ante Sapina.

Cvrtak claimed in the Bochum court that he met three Malta players in their Oslo hotel before the Euro 2008 qualifier to arrange the fix.

Sammut was substituted at halftime when Malta trailed 1-0. Norway scored three late goals to boost wagers on how many would be scored.

The MFA identified players Kenneth Scicluna and Stephen Wellman, who both played the full 90 minutes in Oslo, as being involved in the case.

"The findings of the (UEFA) disciplinary inspector are insufficient to take disciplinary action against the following players: Kenneth Scicluna and Stephen Wellman," the Maltese football body said in a statement.

Malta finished last in its Euro 2008 qualifying group. Norway placed third and failed to advance to the tournament, which was played in Switzerland and Austria.

In court, Sapina and Cvrtak were said to have made millions in profit by bribing referees, players and officials to help manipulate matches and results. Most wagers were placed in Asian betting markets.

The gang claimed to have manipulated a 2010 World Cup qualifier between Liechtenstein and Finland in September 2009. A Bosnian referee was paid 40,000 ($52,000) to ensure two goals would be scored in the second half.

The match was scoreless at half time and ended 1-1, with one goal scored from a penalty awarded by the referee, who has since been suspended from football for life.

Sapina was convicted on 22 counts of fraud and attempted fraud, while Cvrtak was found guilty on 26 counts of fraud and attempted fraud.

Both were sentenced to 5 1/2 years in jail, though their prison terms were reduced because of time served in custody awaiting trial.

Updated August 20, 2012

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