Match-fixing probe keeps Italian prosecutor busy

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When Eaton was at FIFA, the former detective and his handful of investigators opted to interview suspects and pursue cases across the world. Because he had few evidence-gathering powers and little support from national law enforcement agencies, FIFA had limited success.

Ralf Mutschke, a former Interpol manager who succeeded Eaton last year, has switched tactics, focusing more on education and prevention. National agencies investigate match-fixing, with liaison support from FIFA’s 209 members associations.   

“Everyone has a role to play,” Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble told the AP. “There has to be prosecution. There has to be prevention. … There’s got to be internal work from FIFA. There’s got to be work from the legal betting agencies. It’s a huge problem, a huge problem.”

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In Italy, match-fixing by itself is not considered a serious crime.

“It’s considered a minor type of fraud _ sports fraud _ which is penalized with sentences of a maximum of two years,” Di Martino said.

Furthermore, most sentences up to two years in Italy are routinely suspended. And many accused match-fixers face investigation and disciplinary action by sports federations before criminal prosecutions proceed.

While those involved in Operation Last Bet have not yet gone to a criminal trial, Italian football federation prosecutor Stefano Palazzi has already handed out numerous bans from soccer and punished teams by dropping them in the league standings.

Doni was banned from football for 5 1/2 years for allegedly betting on fixed games and Atalanta has been docked points _ both last season and this season. Signori, allegedly a key link between money runners in eastern Europe and players who fixed matches, was banned for five years, even though he’s retired.

In all, 13 clubs in Italy’s top two divisions have been punished in the standings this season with point deductions.

Antonio Conte, the coach of defending Serie A champion Juventus, completed in December a four-month ban for failing to report fixing when he guided Siena two seasons ago.

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In other countries as well, match-fixers go free because there aren’t laws on the books or it is not considered a serious crime.

In November, three players in Switzerland were acquitted in a match-fixing case, and the country’s Football Association said the criminal code needs to be updated. The judge ruled that an online betting scam did not yield a victim.

Di Martino was drawn into the case when it was still believed to be the more serious crime of a drugging incident, thus enabling him to use investigative practices that might not have been employed for match-fixing.

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