Mon, Mar 28, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Court suspects a second referee in match-fixing scam

AP , BERLIN

Another referee is suspected of involvement in Germany's match-fixing scandal, the soccer sports court investigating the affair said Saturday.

Felix Zwayer, a witness in the case, is accused of holding back information and failing to tell investigators he was sounded out by a fellow referee to help influence a match.

"I'm not quite certain if money didn't flow in the direction of Zwayer too," said Horst Hilpert, chairman of the sports court committee looking into fixed matches.

The 23-year-old Zwayer told investigators he didn't regard a conversation with Dominick Marks -- accused of accepting a 30,000 euro (US$40,000) bribe -- as an attempt to draw him into the betting scam.

In addition to the sports court's activities, Berlin prosecutors are investigating 25 people in the case, in which three Croatian brothers are accused of bribing referees and players to manipulate matches for betting profits.

Four referees and 14 players are suspected of rigging at least 10 matches, mostly in Germany's lower divisions.

News of the scandal emerged in January when four referees informed soccer officials of their suspicions about one of their colleagues, Robert Hoyzer.

Hoyzer has admitted accepting bribes and successfully manipulating matches for a Croatian betting ring. He has since resigned.

Zwayer's lawyer denied any wrongdoing by his client and accused the German Soccer Federation and its sport court of damaging the investigation by scaring witnesses.

"If there are any more possible witnesses, they'll think twice considering how my client is being handled -- this can't be helpful to clearing up the scandal," Uwe Freyschmidt told the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel.

The sports court's chairman, Rainer Koch, said he found it "very hard to understand" that Zwayer didn't recognize that Marks was attempting to involve him in game manipulation.

Zwayer, however, insists he didn't understand Marks' intentions.

"If I had suspected from the conversation, that it was similar to Hoyzer's situation, I would have told the investigating committee," Zwayer said.

Zwayer was the sideline assistant of Marks, who is being held in custody, during the game in which the referee reportedly took the 30,000 euro bribe. The pair officiated in a second division match in which Duisburg beat Karlsruhe 3-0 in December.

State betting agency Oddset announced Saturday that it plans to forbid players, coaches and referees from betting on their own matches.

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