Cypriot police say they knew last year about a possible involvement of specific individuals rigging the Beautiful Game but could not act citing phone privacy concerns.
As football corruption scandals continue to unfold in the Republic of Cyprus, it has emerged that law enforcement officials on the island received a specific message from Spanish authorities on 12 March 2019, which included references of probable cause regarding at least one specific player and other individuals in the world of sports, in suspected fixing of First Division matches in the Cypriot championship.
Police Spokesperson Christos Andreou told the Cyprus News Agency on Tuesday that Spanish law enforcement authorities had conducted two operations in 2018, based on phone surveillance in a suspected case of football match-fixing.
“Parts of suspicious conversations with the football player were attached in the message that was sent by Spanish authorities,” Andreou said.
According to Andreou, Spanish police had arrested a football player who was working in Cyprus at the time on suspicion he had been involved in manipulating betting activity in football matches.
The spokesperson said information shared by Spanish law enforcement was based on surveillance of phone conversations in Spain which included calls from Cypriot phone numbers
But the spokesperson added that information shared by Spanish law enforcement was based on surveillance and recording of phone conversations from Spanish telephone numbers which also included calls from Cypriot phone numbers.
Andreou went on to argue that surveillance and recording of phone conversations was unlawful in Cyprus, while a meeting between Cypriot and Spanish officials was set for 23 July 2019 when police on the island requested the full transcripts.
The spokesperson also told CNA that Spanish authorities had failed to prove match-fixing had taken place as they were unable to pin point a specific match on which betting had taken place on a game that was rigged.
Andreou said the transcripts, translated from Spanish to English, reached Nicosia police headquarters in October 2019. They were then translated from English to Greek and on 30 January 2020 the case was forwarded to the state’s attorney general with specific questions on how police should handle the case.
The revelations came a day after an extensive and revealing report published by El Confidencial identified Cyprus match-fixing as a central hub of European football corruption.
Last week, a local football chairman and a referee were remanded in custody after witnesses came forward with match fixing allegations. The two suspects were said not to be cooperating with authorities.
Phone surveillance in Cyprus
The issue of phone surveillance had come up last year following harsh criticism against police over Cyprus’ first serial killer case. Local law enforcement authorities were criticized for not using tools available to them to investigate disappearances of foreign women or go after private communications in suspected kidnapping cases.
Police officials had dismissed some of the criticism, saying the law did not give law enforcement unrestricted access to phone records in cases of missing persons.
But according to the penal code in the Republic of Cyprus, police officers could obtain a court warrant for access to telecommunications data if they suspect a crime has been committed, including kidnapping.