Nine Malta Under 21 players were approached last March and asked to take part in a scam which would have seen Malta lose a European championship qualifier match against Montenegro by three goals to nil, but only two were interested the offer - Kyle Cesare and Emanuel Briffa - and consequently the match-fixing plan was abandoned, a court was told today.

Malta eventually had lost the game by a single goal.

The Asian betting syndicate that was behind the match-fixing attempt then set sights on the subsequent match which the U21 side was due to play against the Czech Republic a few days later. But its plans collapsed in that case too.

This details started to emerge this afternoon as evidence was heard in proceedings against 34-year-old former soldier Ronnie Mackay of St Julian's as well as Mr Cesare, 20, who is a Pieta Hotspurs midfielder and, Mr Briffa, 22 who is Floriana FC defender. The three men are denying all charges.

The charges had been filed in the wake of the admission by 21-year-old footballer Seyble Zammit who last April was also on a match-fixing case.

Although Mr Zammit had filed an admission in court he was exempted from punishment by a after spilling the beans on the case. Details of his testimony were not divulged. 

The police investigation had been triggered following a report by Malta Football Association integrity officer Franz Tabone a few days after the Montenegro game which was played at Ta' Qali on March 23.

During today's sitting, Seyble Zammit took the witness stand and said that he had been approached by Mr Mackay who had promised him a reward in the region of €6,000. "My job was to approach the players with the offer and to refer those interested to Mr Mackay," he said.

The witness added that the plan failed as only Mr Briffa and Mr Cesare had agreed to meet Mr Mackay.

He then set his sights on the Czech Republic game. He claimed that he was pressured by Mr Mackay to fix the game, or otherwise would have to refund €7,000 in travel expenses incurred by a foreign member of the betting syndicate who was the mastermind of this match-fixing operation. This man, allegedly, from Asia had come to Malta to commission the operation.

"The plan failed as on March 30, I was arrested by the police," Mr Zammit testified.

Police Inspector Sean Scicluna gave details on the various statements given by the defendants.

He said that Mr Briffa was not a suspect until Mr Zammit told the police that he had been offered him €3,000, but he did not accept the offer.

Mr Cesare also told the police he had been approached by Mr Zammit and a Chinese man, presumably the foreigner who is part of the Asian betting syndicate, but he refused the offer.

When questioned by the police, Mr Mackay had denied any involvement saying that Mr Zammit had approached him to set up an online betting account on his behalf, which he refused to do.

The case continues on June 13.

Lawyer Giannella de Marco is appearing for Mr McKay. Stefano Filletti is defence counsel for Mr Briffa, while Clifton Galea is appearing for Mr Cesare. Lawyers Adrian Camilleri and Chris Bonnet are appearing parte civile for the MFA

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