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Minister: match fixing is part of Cyprus reality.

Author:

Jacqueline Agathocleous

JUSTICE Minister Loucas Louca yesterday conceded that football matches are fixed in Cyprus, adding it was an international phenomenon and Cyprus is no exception.

"Would we be the exception?" he asked, speaking after he met with the new House Human Rights Committee. "Is there anyone who doesn't admit it in Cyprus? Someone who claims games haven't been fixed in Cyprus is not living in Cypriot reality."

Commenting on recent media reports that money made from bets through fixed games in Greece was laundered in Cyprus, Louca said the police had not yet received any such information from the Greek authorities, nor was a request submitted to the Cypriot authorities to look into the claims.

Greece has been at the centre of a football scandal over the past couple of weeks, after information emerged that games were being fixed as part of a massive betting scam netting more than e1/413 million.

Citing insiders, Kathimerini newspaper reported on Sunday that the Greek authorities possessed information linking Cyprus to the betting scandal, saying the island was used to launder vast amounts of money made from these bets. The paper said it was one bet's winnings, amounting to over e1/41 million, which first raised suspicions of the island's involvement.

It was reported that there was a "handler" in Cyprus, to whom the money was sent, arriving in suitcases and transported by people who were "above any suspicion". The money was then allegedly deposited in an account at Emporiki Bank.

The paper added that Cyprus was among a number of states that were asked to make their own internal investigation into the information, but this was refuted by Louca.

"If there is any such demand, the law enforcing authorities will act immediately," said Louca.

Police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos also said the Greek authorities had not yet asked for an investigation.

If such a request is made, "we will move straight ahead with investigating it", he said. Katsounotos was dismissive of fears that precious evidence could be lost if the investigation is delayed. "This is about a media report; whether it stands or not is not being investigated at this moment," he said, adding that the police couldn't launch an investigation on their own account, without having a witness account to warrant it.

Referring to files sent by European football federation UEFA listing nine possible fixed games in Cyprus -- a case which on Friday police said contained insufficient evidence to back criminal prosecution -- Katsounotos said the files could be reopened at any time, if UEFA provided more specific information.

In total, 17 files have been sent by UEFA, four in March last year and another 13 by May.

Katsounotos categorically denied the police were trying to cover up the case. "The police took the case as far as they could take it, with the leads they had and the legal framework they had to follow," he said.

The case was launched straight after the last files were received in May, he added, and all those implicated in the nine games in question were called in to make statements.

But the force had little to work with. "The infamous UEFA files contained graphs showing internet bets placed on the games for which there is suspicion that possibly, before or during the game, there was collusion," Katsounotos explained.

Meanwhile, Minister Louca explained why the local authorities' hands were tied compared to those of Greece in uncovering more information.

Unlike Greece, where a number of telephone conversations were made public and used to prosecute a series of footballers and agents, Cyprus' constitution does not allow the monitoring of private telecommunications, nor can it be used as evidence in court.

An amendment last year allows the police to gather limited information on telecommunications -- for example, whether a call was made to a specific number, the dates and amount of times -- but only when it comes to serious crimes, such as murder or child sex abuse. Even then, the actual content of a conversation cannot be used.

Copyright Cyprus Mail 2011

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Geographic Code:4EUGR
Date:Jun 28, 2011
Words:683
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