• How Corruption in Moldovan Football Is (Not) Punished

    How Corruption in Moldovan Football Is (Not) Punished
    16 January 2021 | 08:00

    Several corruption scandals have shaken Moldovan football in the last decade. However, the punishments were purely symbolic and did not target any of the notorious people. In early December 2020, law enforcement agencies made public a new corruption case. In the context of this recent case, ZdG analyzed documents and made a retrospective of the most booming corruption cases in Moldovan football in the last 10 years.

    December 8, 2020. The National Anti-Corruption Center announces that eleven persons, working in the field of football, are under criminal investigation for influencing sporting events. Among those targeted were presidents of football clubs in Moldova, directors of specialized sports schools, and players representing five teams out of 10 that play in the National Division.

    December 2020, a déjà vu for Moldovan football

    According to the National Anti-Corruption Center, in early December, investigators carried out the operation, jointly with representatives of EUROPOL and UEFA, who assisted in a full investigation of all the circumstances. The institution stated that the investigators found the amounts for an arranged match, which varied between 10,000 euros and 20,000 euros, and bets were mainly taken by the bookmakers in Asia. However, links have been detected with the bookmakers in the EU countries.

    Investigators also established that people involved profited around  600,000 euros from more than 20 rigged matches between July and December 2020. The criminal investigation is underway, all persons being investigated in liberty.

    It is not the first time that the law enforcement bodies initiate criminal cases to investigate corruption and rigged matches in Moldovan football. It’s just that, practically every time, those involved were either not held accountable or received, in the end, representative punishments. ZdG analyzed several documents and has evidence that the most resounding corruption cases in Moldovan football in the last decade ended without criminal penalties. Meanwhile, the king sport of our country has been taking steps back and reached the bottom of all the rankings.

    People affiliated with a football club bet hundreds of thousands of dollars

    In July 2014, anti-corruption prosecutors initiated a case following a Money Laundering Prevention and Combating Service report on the illegal actions of the Dacia football club decision-makers. The club was then one of the leaders in the National Division. The analytical report received from the official representatives of UEFA provided information on the manipulation of the sports results by Dacia Chișinău and the KS Teuta team from Albania. The two teams played two matches in the preliminary round of the Europa League on July 4 and 11. In the first match, the Albanian team won 3-1, and in the return match they lost 2-0, and Dacia thus qualified in the next round.

    On July 11, the day of the return match, the Russian citizen Rustam Polonkoev bet  6,812 dollars through the bookmaker Betfair. In the years 2011-2013, he bet on various matches for more than 137,900 dollars. Until September 2011, Rustam Polonkoev had been the president of the Dacia football club, and Adlan Shishhanov, another Russian citizen patronized at that time. The law enforcement agencies also established that in the years 2012-2013 Rustam Polonkoev bet online, using IP addresses from Russia and Moldova. The IP addresses belonged to the Russian citizen, Edilsultanov Aslambek, who was the sports director of the FC Dacia complex during the investigation of the criminal case. 

    “The case was filed away on the count of money laundering.”

    According to a document obtained by ZdG, in March 2015, prosecutors requested from the Moldovan Football Federation a technical-scientific report to determine whether two Dacia footballers, goalkeeper Evgheni Matiughin and defender Denis Iliescu, played in the two games between Dacia and KS Teuta honestly.

    Other matches involving the Dacia Chișinău team were analyzed and investigated in the same case. One of the episodes targeted the bets of a Singapore citizen, Titani S/O Perisiamy. He attended several football matches in Moldova, including a match between two local teams, which ended 6-0.

    However, the criminal case ended with no punishment. In 2018, the Dacia Chișinău club was disbanded. “The case was filed away on the count of money laundering. It was disjointed against two Georgian citizens, who are currently announced in search,” said Angela Starinschi, National Anti-Corruption Center spokesperson.

    Saved by the first instance court

    During the same period, Titani S/O Perisiamy, together with another citizen of the Republic of Singapore, Phua Boon Keong, tried to fraud a football match with the involvement of Moldova’s national youth team. They promised 50,000 US dollars to the then vice-president of the Moldovan Football Federation. Thus, the two Singapore citizens were caught red-handed, after they sent, in two installments of 4,750 dollars. The money was intended to influence the players of the national youth team to lose with a certain score the match with the national team of Belgium, which was to be played on March 30, 2015. The Belgians won the match with a score of 2 to 1.

     The two Singapore citizens were detained then, and shortly after, the criminal case was sent to Chișinău Court. On July 13, 2015, the responsible judge for the case pressed small penalty fines- around 670 euros, for bribery. Both felons “sincerely regretted the deeds” and fully admitted their guilt, requesting that the trial of the case be based on the evidence provided during the criminal investigation phase.

    “Considering that the defendants do not present any danger to society, the mitigating circumstances of their guilt, namely that they committed a crime for the first time, their full recognition of guilt, assistance in discovering the crime, sincere repentance, minor children to provide for, lack of aggravating circumstances of guilt, the court considers it possible to correct and re-educate the defendants without isolating them from society, with the application of a penalty in the form of a fine,” justified the magistrate the mild sentence applied to the two citizens of Singapore. At the same time, the preventive measure applied to them, the pre-trial detention was canceled, and they were immediately released from the courtroom.

    Convicted in absentia at the Court of Appeal

    Eugen Balan, the prosecutor who managed the case, appealed the sentence at the Chișinău Court of Appeal and demanded harsh punishments for the two defendants. In December 2015, the court accepted the prosecutor’s request. It found that the criminal investigation body and the first instance failed to find that the deeds of the defendants had been committed “in particularly large proportions” and sentenced the two defendants to four years and four months in prison with execution in a semi-closed penitentiary.

    However, the trial took place in their absence at the Chisinau Court of Appeal, because Titani S/O Perisiamy and Phua Boon Keong left Moldova a few days after they were released by the first instance sentence. They were announced in search, but without success.

    Corruption in women’s football annihilated with suspended imprisonment

    In 2013, corruption affected women’s football as well. In August 2013, the National Anti-Corruption Center detained the sports journalist Serghei Besedin and the coach Vasile Mungiu. Mungiu was accused of convincing Alina Stetenco, the coach of the Moldova U17 women’s football team to organize the defeat of the Moldova national team in the match with the national team of Latvia. The match was part of the European U17 Championship. Mungiu promised 8,000 US dollars, for match-fixing with a difference of one or two goals.

    Coach Mungiu admitted his guilt and said that it was the journalist Serghei Besedin who offered the whole business because he knew coach Alina Stetenco. She told him that she agreed to join the game. However, the women’s team’s coach notified the National Anti-Corruption Center. Thus, Besedin and Mungiu were detained, and in February 2015, Mungiu was sentenced by the first instance to two years in prison with suspension for a probation period of two and a half years. In 2017, Mungiu demanded the cancellation of the sentence and the exposure of the criminal record, stating that his request “is related to his desire to reintegrate socially and to regain those rights he was deprived of because of his stupidity and recklessness.” However, the Chișinău Court of Appeal rejected his request. Subsequently, Mungiu was suspended by UEFA for life from all the football activities. The latest public data show that he is deputy principal at the Sports School in Anenii Noi district, in east-central Moldova.

    Journalist Serghei Besedin was also tried in a separate case. In July 2015, he was sentenced to three years in prison. The judges suspended the journalist from his sentence for a probation period of two years. Although prosecutors requested four years in prison with execution, because “ the first instance established a sentence which is not able to ensure the purposes of the criminal punishment institution,” Chișinău Court of Appeal left the sentence of the first instance in force, thus ending another corruption case in Moldovan football.

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