By Andrew Warshaw
February 15 – Several years after the incident first hit the headlines, Spanish prosecutors have dramatically reopened a case against 41 individuals, including 36 players, over alleged matchfixing relating to a top-flight survival decider between Levante and Real Zaragoza.
Zaragoza won the match, the final round of the 2010-11 season, 2-1, a result that staved off relegation. No-one has yet been convicted since a lower court shelved the case last year, ruling there was not enough evidence.
But it was reopened last month by prosecutors in Valencia, where the match was played, following an appeal by anti-corruption authorities, La Liga and Deportivo La Coruna, who ended up being relegated that season.
Among those on the books of Zaragoza at the time were Anders Herrera, now at Manchester United, and Atletico Madrid captain Gabi Fernandez. Herrera joined Athletic Bilbao after that season, then is reported to have paid his own buyout clause in 2014 to move to United.
Prosecutors want two-year jail sentences and six-year bans if it can be proved that any of those who took part have any connections to match-fixing. Former Mexico and Japan coach Javier Aguirre, who was coach of Zaragoza at the time, has denied any wrongdoing but could face a similar punishment if found guilty.
Prosecutors alleged when the case first came to light that Zaragoza made bank transfers to its own players and officials, who then withdrew the money, totalling $1.2 million, and passed it on to up to 17 Levante players as payment to throw the match. With Levante already safe, Zaragoza’s victory enabled them to avoid relegation and condemned Deportivo to the drop.
La Liga’s outspoken president Javier Tebas says he wants justice to be done. “The legal truth is getting closer to the real truth,” Tebas told Marca. “I would not like it if they are found guilty, but the truth must come out.”
It is unclear whether any ban would be valid outside Spain (unless UEFA or FIFA become involved) but it is unlikely those accused would face jail if found guilty since sentences of two years or less are routinely suspended in Spain for first offences.
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