Referees complicit in Czech soccer bribery scandal

Three former soccer officials and seven Czech league referees were convicted and fined for bribery Thursday, an official said. Ivo Valenta, the former chairman of FC Synot, was fined 300,000 koruna (Ђ10,560; US$13,000) for his involvement in the scandal, and former sports manager Jaroslav Hastik was fined 100,000 koruna (Ђ3,500; US$4,300), judge Karel Rasin said.

Another official of the club, Igor Stefanko, has to pay 50,000 koruna (Ђ1,750; US$2,150), said Rasin, who issued the verdict at the district court in Kromeriz, 300 kilometers (190 miles) east of Prague. Hastik was also banned from working as official in soccer for five years, and Stefanko for three years.

Referees Jaromir Hlavac, Bohuslav Kratky, Stanislav Hruska and Vaclav Zejda were fined 100,000 koruna (Ђ3,500; US$4,300) each for accepting bribes and were banned from working as referees for the next four years. Josef Dvoracek, Eduard Cichy and Petr Rehor were fined 50,000 koruna (Ђ1,750; US$2,150) and banned for three years.

Hastik immediately appealed the verdict, Rasin said. The others have eight days since they receive the ruling to do the same. The corruption trial was part of a bribery scandal considered the biggest in Czech history. The scandal broke in 2004 when police wiretappings revealed attempts to fix matches.

Since then, more than two dozen soccer officials and referees have been suspended or fined by the country's soccer federation for offering or accepting bribes. Soccer referee Vladimir Pastyrik received an eight-month suspended sentence last year for agreeing to accept a bribe to fix a game.

The scandal emerged May 1, 2004, when police detained Hastik and Hruska on charges of paying and accepting a bribe of 175,000 koruna (Ђ6,150; US$7,500) to influence a match between Synot and Sparta Prague.

Synot beat Sparta 2-0 in the match, which was played nearly four weeks later. The result damaged Sparta's chances of catching Banik Ostrava, which won its first league title later in the season. Ostrava was not investigated.

In its own investigation, the Czech soccer federation's disciplinary committee ruled in July 2004 that FC Synot will have 12 points deducted from its total next season as punishment for its involvement in the scandal.

Synot was also fined 500,000 koruna (Ђ17,600; US$21,650), and both Valenta and Hastik were fined 100,000 koruna (Ђ3,500; US$4,300) and banned for two years the maximum punishment. In November 2004, Milan Brabec, who was then the federation's vice chairman, was suspended and fined in connection with the scandal. Besides Synot, which later changed its name to FC Slovacko, four other Czech teams of the two top leagues had points deducted, reports the AP. N.U.