More footballers involved in scandal – MFA boss
Malta Football Association boss Norman Darmanin Demajo believes more than one player was involved in a match-fixing scandal which has rocked the national team.
Reacting a day after former Malta international Kevin Sammut was handed a 10-year suspension, Dr Darmanin Demajo expressed doubt over whether all the guilty parties involved in the 2008 case had been punished.
“Regarding the outcome, I personally believe there had to be more players involved. But we need to respect the decision of UEFA’s Control and Disciplinary Body and in the absence of proof it would be unfair to arrive at any further conclusion,” the MFA president told The Sunday Times.
“The whistleblower in this case originally claimed that four players were involved. I personally believe you can’t fix a game with one player.”
However, Mr Sammut’s lawyer is insisting the European football association did not give his client a fair hearing.
Michael Sciriha spoke of “confusion” at Friday’s hearing before UEFA’s disciplinary board that slapped his client with a 10-year suspension.
“Kevin (Sammut) is disappointed at the way things developed and he still protests his innocence,” Dr Sciriha said.
The player is expected to appeal the ban when UEFA communicates the reasons for its decision, the lawyer said.
Mr Sammut, a midfielder, was accused of accepting bribes to throw the Malta v Norway game in Oslo five years ago. The UEFA prosecutor requested a lifetime ban.
Another two players, Stephen Wellman and Kenneth Scicluna, were cleared by the tribunal due to lack of evidence. The prosecution had asked for a three-year ban.
Mr Sammut arrived in Malta from Nyon in Switzerland yesterday afternoon but declined to comment. He was whisked away by family members as his lawyer addressed the press.
Dr Sciriha said the charges against his client were based on the “unreliable” testimony of Croat Mario Cvrtak, who was last year jailed for five years by a German court over a match-fixing scandal.
Mr Sammut was accused of meeting Mr Cvrtak in a hotel room in Oslo but when cross-examined the Croat could not provide specific details of the meeting, according to Dr Sciriha.
“Mr Cvrtak also admitted to not exchanging any money and that somebody else might have,” Dr Sciriha said, adding that when pressed to say who the other individual was, the Croat “admitted the person probably did not exist”.
The two other players, represented by different lawyers, were charged with being in the same lift as Mr Cvrtak.
“The evident confusion at the tribunal was incredible,” Dr Sciriha said, adding that his client attended the hearing “under protest”.
He explained that Mr Sammut wanted to produce 12 witnesses but since May, UEFA had failed to answer their queries on the procedure to be followed.
Dr Sciriha revealed that the hearing scheduled for May was postponed after his client refused to attend in protest at the way things were developing.
Mr Sammut did not produce any witnesses on Friday. One of the principal reasons was cost: he would have had to fork out all the travel and accommodation expenses for the witnesses. He was also not told if they would be heard.
Dr Sciriha said the UEFA prosecutor insisted on producing certain witnesses but the disciplinary board decided not to hear them. “At one stage they decided to hear Mr Cvrtak and in the afternoon told us to prepare our defence and asked us not to take a long time because they had another case after ours.”
Despite the ban imposed on his client, Dr Sciriha described the decision as “a legal victory” given that Mr Sammut did not produce witnesses.
“It was an unbalanced hearing but we managed to break the prosecution’s argument and instead of a lifetime ban my client got 10 years. The board did not have the courage to acquit my client, possibly because of all the hype surrounding the case, but their doubts may have been reflected in the sentence.”
In a statement Mr Wellman said he was “satisfied” with the outcome of the case. “It confirms my lack of involvement and knowledge of the alleged match-fixing scheme, a position that I have sustained since inception of the investigation by both the Malta Football Association and UEFA officers.”
Mr Wellman said UEFA’s disciplinary body reached its conclusion after holding two hearings at its headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland and after reviewing written submissions, witnesses and other evidence.
Lawyer Keith Borg assisted Mr Wellman.