German sportsmen charged for bribery

The German referee who admitted taking bribes to fix games for a betting syndicate went on trial with five other people Tuesday in the biggest corruption case in German soccer in more than 30 years. Robert Hoyzer, already banned for life by the German soccer federation (DFB), is charged with fraud. Former referee Dominik Marks, player Steffen Karl, and three Croatian brothers accused of running the betting ring also went on trial at the Berlin state court.

Flanked by two lawyers, Hoyzer wore a dark three-piece suit as he walked into the court building through a blaze of camera lights.

The trial is expected to last at least until Dec. 29, meaning proceedings could be in progress when top international soccer officials assemble in Leipzig on Dec. 9 for the 2006 World Cup draw. Germany is hosting the championship next summer.

The trial opened with the prosecutors reading the charge sheet.

The defendants could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Hoyzer is also a chief witness for the prosecution, which based its indictment on his statements to investigators.

Hoyzer's lawyer, Thomas Hermes, has said he would seek a suspended sentence for his client because of his willingness to cooperate with the prosecution.

After first denying match-fixing allegations, Hoyzer changed his story and admitted the charges in January. He also implicated others in the scandal.

The prosecutors accuse one of the three brothers, Ante Sapina, of running the betting syndicate from a cafe he owned in Berlin. Ante Sapina is the only defendant still in custody; his brothers, Filip and Milan, have been released.

Hoyzer, 26, admitted receiving US$82,300 from the brothers to fix German league games, the AP says.

Hoyzer was allegedly offered an Audi car for fixing one game, but opted for cash instead because he did not have a driving license.

He and Marks also spent time in investigative custody. Hoyzer was banned for life in April by the DFB, while Marks was suspended.

Karl, a third-division player for Chemnitz who also spent three days in custody, admitted that he tried to bribe a goalkeeper to throw a game.

According to the 289-page charge sheet, the three Sapina brothers made at least Ђ2 million (US$2.4 million) by betting on fixed games.

Prosecutors say 23 games, mostly in lower divisions, are believed to have been fixed from April to December of 2004.

One German Cup game, between top club Hamburger SV and third-division Paderborn, ended in a 4-2 win for Paderborn after Hoyzer awarded two penalties to the small side. The loss eliminated Hamburg from the competition. The DFB had to compensate Hamburg with US$2.4 million.


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