Spanish match-fixing case falls apart as judge clears convict 41 players and officials

Scales of justice

December 10 – A Spanish court has cleared 36 players and five others of match-fixing relating to a top-flight survival decider between Levante and Real Zaragoza in the final round of the 2010-11 season.

The judge who issued the not guilty verdict said there was not enough evidence to convict the players and others on trial, including former Mexico coach Javier Aguirre.

Zaragoza had been accused of paying Levante players €965,000 to lose so Zaragoza could avoid relegation.

The judge did convict two former Zaragoza officials of fraud – then-president Agapito Iglesias and club director Javier Porquera. They were found guilty of using €1.73 million from Zaragoza’s accounts to pay players relegation bonuses.

They were each given a 15-month prison sentence, although they are not likely to face jail time because sentences of less than two years for first-time offenders are often suspended in Spain.

Those accused were all facing two years in prison and a six-year ban from football.

Among the players on trial were Ander Herrera, the former Manchester United player now with Paris Saint-Germain; former Leicester City midfielder Vicente Iborra; former Atletico Madrid captain Gabi Fernandez; River Plate midfielder Leonardo Ponzio, Serbian defender Ivan Obradovic, Lazio forward Felipe Caicedo, Italian defender Maurizio Lanzaro and Uruguay and former Middlesbrough striker Cristhian Stuani.

Aguirre was Zaragoza’s coach at the time. He was among those who appeared in court to give evidence. “I’m very happy for myself and for my family,” he said in a statement released by Leganes, his current club in Spain. “I always had faith in justice.”

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