(Reuters) - Two businessmen have been sentenced to five years in prison and a footballer for 16 months in relation to England’s biggest football match-fixing scandal for over 50 years.
Chann Sankaran, 33, a Singapore national, and Krishna Ganeshan, 44, a UK national who was born in Sri Lanka, were convicted at Birmingham Crown Court on Tuesday on conspiracy to commit bribery and were handed five-year jail terms at sentencing on Friday.
Michael Boateng, a former player for Whitehawk FC in Brighton, was convicted of conspiring to offer, promise or give a financial advantage to other persons and was jailed for 16 months.
Another footballer, Hakeem Adelakun, was cleared while a fifth man will face a retrial after the jury was discharged from reaching a verdict.
The men were among seven people arrested last November on suspicion of being connected to an illegal betting syndicate based in Singapore that was involved in match-fixing in English lower league football.
Sankaran and Ganeshan were charged in November and the three footballers faced charges in December.
“The NCA is in no doubt that Ganeshan and Sankaran were at the very beginning of a concerted attempt to build a network of corrupt players in the UK,” National Crime Agency branch commander Richard Warner said in a statement on its website (www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk).
“Their aim was to influence play so that they could make spot bets and manipulate scorelines to generate large sums of money. They clearly had links to business-like networks overseas.
“This is not sport as a football-loving nation recognises it. It is corruption and bribery linked to serious organised crime, and the NCA is determined to stop criminals benefiting from it.
“The evidence in corruption cases is often either verbal or visual. Unless you are there when money changes hands, or plans are made, that evidence is gone. We had a vital opportunity here to intervene early, secure the evidence to get convictions, and put a stop to Sankaran’s and Ganeshan’s much wider and more sinister ambitions.”
The NCA investigation began when The Daily Telegraph handed the agency evidence from its own undercover investigation.
Surveillance of the men provided evidence to secure conviction, despite the failure of their plot to fix a match between AFC Wimbledon and Dagenham Redbridge on 26 November, the NCA said.
The NCA launched a second probe into alleged corruption in English football shortly afterwards when a Sunday newspaper claimed a player told an undercover reporter that he could guarantee certain events in a match.
The investigations are highly embarrassing for English football, which prides itself as the largely unsullied birthplace of the game.
The last major match-fixing scandal in England occurred in the mid-1960s when 10 players were found guilty.
Earlier last year, an inquiry by European police forces, Europol and national prosecutors uncovered a global betting scam run from Singapore.
About 680 suspicious matches, including the European Champions League and qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships, were identified in the investigation.
Reporting by Josh Reich, editing by Pritha Sarkar