Football players charged in South Korea match-fixing probe

Posted on by SoccerPunter

Dozens of current and former football players have been charged with match-fixing, prosecutors said Thursday, in a deepening scandal which has battered the reputation of South Korea’s K-League.

Prosecutors have charged 57 people — 46 current and former players and 11 criminal gang members and gambling brokers — for fixing 15 matches last year, said the prosecutors’ office in the southeastern city of Changwon.

The players intentionally lost games in exchange for money paid by retired players and brokers linked with organised gangs, it said in a statement.

“We have found match-fixing practices were so widespread,” the statement said, adding it involved some players earning large salaries and “one who played at the national team.”

Many players had been forced to repeatedly throw games after the gangs threatened to report their involvement in the scam to authorities, it said, without naming any of the players and teams.

“Many of them (gangsters) have run away…we know that these gangsters threatened players and masterminded the match-rigging,” Yonhap news agency quoted senior prosecutor Kwak Kyoo-Hyun as saying.

Investigators said they believe at least 15 matches involving six teams were rigged last year while players received from 3 million won (US$2,800) to 31 million won from brokers.

The players came from Chunnam Dragons, Daejeon Citizen, Busan I’Park, Incheon United, Daegu FC and a Sangju-based military team, Yonhap reported, adding many of them have turned themselves in return for lenient penalties.

Players from three other teams — Gyeongnam FC, Incheon United and Jeju United — are also being investigated for possible match-fixing, Kwak said.

Choi Sung-Kuk, a former national team forward, earlier this month admitted his involvement in throwing games while playing for a military football team last year.

Eleven players have already been charged with taking money to throw games. Another player who was implicated in the scandal committed suicide. Of the 11, all but one have been banned for life from the K-League.

Nearly all football players, coaches, referees and officials have now signed a pledge to root out match-fixing and other illegal activities, while league officials have urged players to come forward in return for softer penalties.

South Korean newspapers have said football clubs, keen to hush up the scandal, have been silently expelling players implicated in match-rigging since last year.

Illegal gambling websites, many of them operated by crime rings in South Korea and China, have heightened the temptation among players to fix matches.

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