Cyprus Called Hub of European Soccer Match-Fixing Scandal

(Photo by Eurokinissi/ Tatiana Bolari)

NICOSIA – Cyprus, where soccer was called rotten by one team owner and referees have had their cars blown up, is the center of European-wide corruption and match-fixing in the sport, the Spanish news operation said in an extensive report.

According to the report, surveillance carried out by Spanish law enforcement found that ringleaders of match-fixing were getting intelligence from their Cyprus link, AEK Larnaca’s attacking midfielder, Jorge Larena.

That came after information in the report linked the corruption and match fixing to an attempt to kill retired Serbian soccer player Darko Kovačević in Athens in January and as Spanish police arrested more than 50 players, managers and other players involved in manipulating the results of matches in the Spanish second, third and fourth divisions.

A source speaking to El Confiential said: “It has been found that the situation is much bigger than intervening with players to score money from bets. In Cyprus, corruption exists within the institutions. They determine titles, entire championships and the participation of teams in European leagues, and pay out large sums of money to betting companies to make profit.”

In January, the president of top-flight club Omonia Nicosia blasted what he called “rot and corruption” in Cypriot soccer, claiming he’s been approached with offers to “buy off” a match, referees, and even players.

Stavros Papastavrou said that some offers even specified the “going rate” or the price tag for a championship or a cup.

He refrained from identifying who approached him, but he said “they have names and we know where they’re from.” He said their identities would be revealed to authorities after “convincing” assurances for the whistleblower’s safety.

Papastavrou said his club will send a report on what ails Cypriot soccer and its hierarchy to soccer’s European governing body UEFA – also fighting an image of being corrupt – and will provide a truncated copy to Cypriot police and the national soccer federation because his club didn’t feel they can be “trusted” to keep its contents confidential.

He also offered a reward ranging from 5,000 to 25,000 euros ($5,500 to $27,500) to anyone willing to step forward this season with evidence of corruption and match-fixing.

Papastavrou said 18 months into his tenure as Omonia’s chief executive have dispelled his earlier perception that suggestions of widespread corruption in the sport were “exaggerated and overblown.”

He said he has since learned about match-fixing, paying off players to under-perform, and of the country’s underworld that’s “particularly active” in the sport but so far hasn’t followed up with providing anymore information.

The source who spoke to the Spanish site said the heads of all involved teams which won certain titles as a result of agreed upon deals are aware of corruption, as they are also apparently benefitting from it.

UEFA had sent several notices suggesting foul play in Cypriot soccer but has done nothing about it other than highlighting suspicious betting activity, conducted mostly in Asian sports waging markets.

Ayia Napa team Chairman Dimitris Masias, a former football referee, and a 33-year-old current referee Andreas Constantinou, were remanded for eight days after witnesses had come forward with match fixing allegations after a recent game between second division Ayia Napa and Othellos Athienou, said Kathimerini Cyprus.

Masias allegedly approached a player of an opposite team and offered 10,000 euros ($10,805) to fix the game for Ayia Napa but the rival refused and said “may the best win” with Masias then replying, according to a witness, that he would approach referees then.

During the match in question, refereed by Constantinou, three Othellos players were expelled from the game starting at the 80th minute, with Ayia Napa finally scoring a 96th minute penalty and winning 1-0, a windfall for betters who backed that club.

Both Masias and Constantinou are facing multiple charges including conspiracy to commit a felony, fraud conspiracy, and various sports-related offenses but nothing has happened to them yet as Cypriot soccer continues to operate under a shadow of suspicion.

After officials were granted access to the suspects’ telecommunications data, which added new names to the list of statements the police will be seeking, their