An extensive and revealing report published in the Spanish news outfit El Confidencial identified Cyprus match-fixing as a central hub of European football corruption.
The report also refers to UEFA's efforts to effectively combat the phenomenon with the help of the Spanish police, which recently arrested more than 50 players, managers and other players involved in manipulating the results of matches in the Spanish second, third and fourth divisions.
According to the report, surveillance carried out by Spanish law enforcement found that the masterminds of the European match-fixing network were receiving information from their Cyprus link, AEK Larnaca’s attacking midfielder, Jorge Larena.
The far-reaching tentacles of the match-fixing network were highlighted by information in the report linked it with the assassination attempt on the retired Serb footballer Darko Kovačević in Athens last month.
A source speaking to El Confiential said: “It has been found that the situation is much bigger than intervening with players to score money from bets. In Cyprus, corruption exists within the institutions. They determine titles, entire championships and the participation of teams in European leagues, and pay out large sums of money to betting companies to make profit.”
The source highlighted that the heads of all involved teams which won certain titles as a result of agreed upon deals are aware this corrupt activity.
The persistent problem of match fixing, that authorities have appeared unable to tackle effectively over the years, emerged once again in Cyprus as a hot topic recently after UEFA sent several notices suggesting foul play. The notices showed suspicious betting activity, conducted mostly in Asian markets.
Last week, two men, 39-year-old Ayia Napa FC chairman Dimitris Masias, a former football referee, and a 33-year-old current referee Andreas Constantinou, were remanded for eight days after witnesses had come forward with match fixing allegations after a recent game between second division Ayia Napa – Othellos Athienou.
According to the allegations, Masias approached a player of an opposite team and offered €10,000 to fix the game for Ayia Napa. The player allegedly refused and said “may the best win” with Masias then replying, according to a witness, that he would take it up with the referee.
During the match in question, refereed by Constantinou, three Othellos players were expelled from the game starting at the 80th minute, with Ayia Napa finally scoring a 96th minute penalty and winning 1-0.
Both Masias and Constantinou are facing multiple charges including conspiracy to commit a felony, fraud conspiracy, and various sports-related offences.
After the authorities were granted access to the suspects’ telecommunications data, which added new names to the list of statements the police will be seeking, police will also be pouring through bank statements.