Malta player’s life ban for fixing cut to 10 years

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GENEVA (AP) - A Malta player accused of helping a Croatian gang fix a European Championship qualifier had his life ban from football cut to 10 years.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport partially upheld Kevin Sammut’s appeal against expulsion by UEFA, his lawyer Michael Sciriha told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

“They have overturned the judgment from a life ban into a 10-year ban,” Sciriha said in a telephone interview.

Sammut had denied colluding with a fixing syndicate in June 2007 to help manipulate Malta’s Euro 2008 qualifier in Norway for a betting scam. Malta lost 4-0.

UEFA originally banned Sammut for 10 years in August 2012 but its own appeals panel increased that to life.

Despite the CAS judgment rejecting a life ban, UEFA said it welcomed the decision confirming Sammut’s involvement in the case.

The court considered “a ten-year ban from any football related-activity is commensurate to Mr. Sammut’s infraction of the rules,” UEFA said in a statement.

UEFA prosecuted the 33-year-old Sammut using convicted fixers Ante Sapina and Marijo Cvrtak as witnesses.

Sapina and Cvrtak are serving five-year prison terms in Germany for multiple fraud convictions. They made millions in betting profits by bribing referees, players and officials to manipulate matches and results.

A court in Bochum reduced their sentences by six months in April for co-operating with authorities.

Sciriha said the ruling states Sammut’s ban runs from August 2012, when a UEFA disciplinary panel first judged the case.

Then, Malta Football Association President Norman Darmanin Demajo said there was “overwhelming evidence” of a fix connecting players to an organized crime gang.

Cvrtak claimed at his initial trial at Bochum, Germany, that he met three Malta players in their Oslo hotel who would arrange the fix.

Sammut, a midfielder who was substituted at halftime when the score was 1-0, denied involvement.

UEFA found him guilty but cleared his teammates, Kenneth Scicluna and Stephen Wellman, who both played the full 90 minutes.

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