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Chairman and ref to stand trial as football sleaze explodes

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Cypriot chairman of a second division football club and a referee will stand trial before the Cyprus criminal court on 17 March accused of match-fixing.

Ayia Napa FC chairman Demetris Masias, 39, and referee Andreas Constantinou, 33, are suspected of rigging the Othellos Athienou v Ayia Napa second division game on 8 February.

They face several charges of conspiracy to commit a crime, conspiracy to defraud and match-fixing.

Their case was referred to trial next month and they were each released on €75,000 conditional bail after a prosecution request to keep them in custody until their trial date was denied.

Masias is accused of attempting the buy the game for €10,000 after approaching the Othellos Athienou chairman and a player to throw the second division fixture.

He is also a football agent and a former top-flight referee, while Constantinou is an upcoming referee, recently promoted to the elite category of Cyprus’ referees.

Constantinou the referee who officiated the suspect match showed three red cards to Othellos players late in the game and awarded Ayia Napa a disputed penalty in the 97th minute which clinched the game 1-0.

Constantinou has since been banned from officiating any football games.

His defence lawyer told the court on Thursday there was no hard evidence against him apart from public opinion about the way he referred the match.

Worst in Europe

Meanwhile, a reporter for Spain’s El Confidencial, Jose Maria Olmo, who broke the story linking a Spanish match-fixing ring to Cyprus, said that corruption in Cypriot football is bigger than he originally thought.

Having conducted a four-month investigation into a match-fixing ring in Spain, Olmo told the Cyprus News Agency that “corruption in Cypriot football goes all the way to the highest levels in society”.

Olmo alleged that corruption in Cyprus is much more endemic than in other countries, arguing that the problem is more widespread than Spain.

He said the island is the only place in Europe where not only matches are fixed, but champions, cup winners and teams who make it to European competitions are predetermined.

Olmo said Spanish authorities discovered the Cyprus connection when listening in on calls made by the Spanish crime ring.

He claims the connection between Cyprus and Spain is a Spanish player who was providing information on matches.

The link is believed to be Spaniard Jorge Larena, a footballer at AEK Larnaca between 2014-2019.

El Confidencial alleges that Spanish police has given UEFA information that could prove Cyprus’ 2018 championship and FA Cup final were fixed.

Four games in the 2017-18 season are linked with a match-fixing ring in Spain which allegedly sealed the fate of the 2018 Cyprus cup as a trade-off for the league title won by APOEL.

Fixtures El Confidencial alleges to have been fixed is the first leg of the semi-final for the Cup between AEK v APOEL on April 18, 2018, which the Larnaca team won 2-0.

Four days later the same teams played a league game with AEK losing at home 3-1.

In the Cup semi-final second leg the home team, APOEL lost 2-1 to AEK on April 25, 2018.

The other suspect game is the Cyprus cup final AEK v Apollon Limassol on May 16, 2018, where the Larnaca side lifted the trophy after winning 2-1.

According to information available to Olmo, the details uncovered by Spanish police was shared with authorities in Cyprus.

Attorney general Costas Clerides said on Thursday that Cypriot authorities were examining the case file sent from the Spanish authorities.

He said the legal services have given police instructions to review a dossier sent in March 2019. The file contained information regarding possible local connections to a match-rigging gang in Spain.

The dossier was recently resent to the legal services for evaluation.