World Cup qualifier was fixed, claims witness
A convicted match-fixer testified Wednesday that he bribed a Bosnian referee to manipulate a World Cup qualifying match between Liechtenstein and Finland.
Ante Sapina told a German court trying four men on fraud charges that he met the referee, Novo Panic, in the parking lot of a Sarajevo hotel to discuss fixing the Sept. 9, 2009 qualifying match that ended in a 1-1 draw. Both Liechtenstein and Finland missed the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
"I asked him if he could manage two goals in the second half," Sapina told the court.
Both goals came in the second half, including a disputed penalty by Finland.
"In the second half the referee awarded a penalty that was never one," the 34-year-old Croat told the court.
Liechtenstein tied the match one minute later.
Sapina said he paid Panic $52,850 US for fixing the match.
Panic was later banned for life for his links to the match-fixing ring.
Sapina was convicted as the mastermind of a match-fixing ring in Germany in 2005 and sentenced to 35 months in prison. He was released early and told the court he resumed betting large sums on manipulated games shortly after the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Although Sapina testified as a witness on Wednesday, prosecutors in Bochum have said they expect to bring charges against him and others shortly. Sapina has been in investigative custody since Nov. 19, 2009.
Bochum prosecutors have been leading a probe into what officials have described as the biggest match-fixing scandal in European football.
Prosecutors say more than 300 games are now suspected of having been fixed in various national and international competitions.