English players fear for safety
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)
An Australian court has heard that some of the English players allegedly involved in match fixing in a provincial football league fear for their safety from associates of a Malaysian man accused of being the local ringleader of an illegal gambling syndicate.
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Segaran 'Gerry' Gsubramaniam, 45, is suspected of being the local organizer for an international syndicate that tried to rig the outcome of matches involving the Melbourne-based Southern Stars.
Players Reiss Michael Noel, David Ike Obaze, Joe Nigel Woolley and Nicholas McKoy were also charged with match-fixing offenses, along with team coach Zia Younan.
The players, all British nationals, and Younan were released on bail to reappear at court on Dec. 6. They have been ordered not to leave Australia and are banned from attending any football match sanctioned by Football Federation Australia.
At Gsubramaniam's bail hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday, Detective Acting Senior Sergeant Scott Poynder said the players told police they were concerned for their safety and had barricaded their Melbourne hotel room with chairs. A decision on Gsubramaniam's bail application was adjourned until next Tuesday.
"Some of the players currently are securing the door of their room with chairs because they fear 'Mr. S' may get people to visit them," Poynder said earlier Friday.
Poynder alleged that Gsubramaniam had links to other clubs in Australia and abroad and more arrests were expected.
"Each day of the investigation, more is coming to light,'' he said.
Poynder said police had identified four local bank accounts belonging to Gsubramaniam, with the main one containing 40,000 Australian dollars ($38,000). He said during the search of Gsubramaniam's residence, a number of money transfer receipts were found, many of them torn up. He said some of the receipts had been pieced back together and identified incoming payments of more than A$230,000 ($217,000) since June.
Poynder said Gsubramaniam told police the money was to pay for player wages, accommodation and car hire.
Gsubramaniam faces 10 charges, including five counts each of either engaging in or facilitating conduct that corrupts or could corrupt the outcome of a betting event. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail under match fixing laws introduced in April.
A Malaysian national, Gsubramaniam allegedly passed information from a foreign gambling syndicate to the coach and some players from the Southern Stars, who are running last in the Victorian Premier League.
The match-fixing allegations relate to the team's last four games, when the Southern Stars conceded 13 goals without scoring. The team has played 21 games this season for just one win, with 16 losses and four draws.
The prosecution opposed bail for Gsubramaniam saying he is ''higher on the totem pole'' of the betting syndicate than the others and was a risk of fleeing the country after police telephone intercepts allegedly recorded him attempting to obtain a fake passport.
Defense lawyer Michael Gleeson said Gsubramaniam had no criminal record, had entered the country legally and on his own passport and disputed the interpretation of the police recordings.
Southern Stars President Ercan Cicek told local media when the match-fixing investigation became public that he'd had no suspicion about corruption at the club, despite five players from England joining the club at the suggestion of a man who also offered to organize sponsorship. The Stars, who Cicek described as a small community club, didn't have to pay the players.
Cicek said the Stars' coach also provided his services for free this season.
In February, the Australian Crime Commission released the findings of the year-long ''Project Aperio,'' saying there was evidence of match-fixing in Australian sport, as well as widespread use of prohibited substances and the infiltration of organized criminal groups in the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs.
Speaking with the help of a Tamil language interpreter, Gsubramaniam's sister Parmsary Gsubramaniam, who arrived in Australia on Thursday to offer bail surety to the court, said her brother had worked as an air conditioning technician in Malaysia.