A 21-year-old man was arraigned in court this morning charged with a number of match fixing charges relating to the UEFA U-21 Championship Group One qualifiers.
Standing in the dock surrounded by weeping family members, Seyble Zammit, whose father Ivan is a former Malta national squad player and Mosta coach, pleaded not guilty.
Prosecuting officer Sean Scicluna told Magistrate Aaron Bugeja that the police had received information from the Malta Football Association last week regarding allegations that the UEFA U-21 Championship Group One qualifier between Malta and Montenegro and possibly yesterday's game against Czech Republic may have been the subject of a match-fixing approach.
Insp. Scicluna told the court that an arrest warrant was issued for Mr Zammit and another person who was then released. The accused was interrogated about his involvement in the alleged match-fixing allegations.
A number of witnesses were approached, including players, Insp. Scicluna told the court. Mr Zammit at times cooperated with the police but there were instances when he did not, he continued.
He released a statement but chose not to sign it.
The defence asked for bail but the prosecution objected, since the crime of match-fixing was a serious one. It is an organised set-up and the accused is only one link in the entire chain. Large amounts of money were involved as well as several people, including foreigners.
Civilian witnesses were yet to testify, Insp. Scicluna argued, as a well as a colleague of the accused.
Defence lawyer Mario Mifsud said his client had a clean criminal record. He was just the little fry in a large, complex web. His client was also employed and should not lose out on work. If there was a colleague whom he worked, arrangements could be made for the accused not to have any contact with him.
"He is a 20-year-old boy, he fully cooperated. He is not even the small fry but he's fish eggs in this entire chain," Dr Misfud told the court.
Insp. Scicluna said the accused mingled with a number of people in places of entertainment, which is why he was the ideal person to commit the crime.
The court held that at this stage of the proceedings and in light of the fact that police investigations were still ongoing, it would be premature for him to be granted bail. Bail could also lead to a high risk of tampering with evidence.
Luciano Busuttil was also defence counsel (although he was not in court today).
On Monday, Times of Malta reported that the police had questioned a number of Malta U-21 players who took part in last week's March 23 game, won 1-0 by Montenegro, as part of their investigation into allegations that the qualifier may have been the subject of a match-fixing approach.
The Malta FA initially declined to comment but later said it was informed that the investigation was underway and it was working closely with the authorities.
Reports that the Group One qualifier, won 1-0 by Montenegro, may have attracted the attention of match-fixers surfaced the day after the match.
The fact that illegal betting is known to be rife in Montenegro meant that last week’s Group One UEFA Championship qualifier was regarded as a high-risk match as far as betting is concerned.
The local football body is also likely to have alerted UEFA about the case.