Match fix indictment alleges mafia was a player in football

Match fix indictment alleges mafia was a player in football

ISTANBUL - Hurriyet Daily News
Match fix indictment alleges mafia was a player in football

Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım (C) allegedly contacted Olgun Peker (inset) to use his influence in manipulating the results of the Istanbul teams’ matches..

A long-awaited indictment on match-fixing charges that outlines the links between the football world and the mafia has been accepted by an Istanbul court.  

The first hearing of the landmark case, which has been the biggest football investigation in the country’s history, will be held Feb. 14, 2012.  

So far a total of 93 football officials, players and coaches have been named as suspects in match-fixing cases, 31 of whom are currently in jail pending trial. The 400-page indictment mainly focuses on former Giresunspor Chairman Olgun Peker, an alleged mobster who has also worked as an agent for players. It is reported Peker stole questions for the license of a player agency, threatened a former Giresunspor chairman and used his influence to intimidate several figures in Turkish football in order to manipulate matches.

Olgun Peker identifies himself as the godchild of jailed mafia leader Sedat Peker, whose name is in the indictment for allegedly manipulating a match between Fenerbahçe and Besiktas in 2004 in favor of the former.

According to the indictment, suspect number-two, Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yildirim, supposedly worked with Peker in order to manipulate his team’s games.  

Several of Fenerbahçe’s matches from last season, including the game in which the team won the Spor Toto Super League title, are alleged to have been manipulated. The Istanbul team also provided other teams with incentives when they were playing the club’s rival Trabzonspor, to motivate their performance. There are parts in the indictment where Trabzonspor was also allegedly involved in match fixing, with chairman Sadri Sener being named a suspect.  

Besiktas, Istanbul BB, Eskisehirspor, Sivasspor, Mersin Idman Yurdu and Giresunspor are among the teams whose officials were charged in the indictment.  

The approval of the indictment came less than a day after a parliamentary commission speedily re-approved a much-debated bill reducing penalties for match fixers. The General Assembly was set to take the bill to its agenda late Dec. 9 when the Hürriyet Daily News went to print. Backed by the three main parties, the bill is expected to be ratified at the General Assembly before it is sent it to the presidency for the final approval. President Abdullah Gül, who vetoed the bill last week, has no other option than to sign the bill although he can take it to the Constitutional Court for its annulment. 

“I am alienated from football,” Gül told reporters travelling with him to Austria. “I will obviously look into the bill if Parliament sends it back to me,” he added, denying reports he felt offended by the party’s move.  

The only opposition to the bill came from the Peace and Development Party (BDP) who accused other parties of carrying the rigging scandal into Parliament. “The AKP [Justice and Development Party], the Republican People’s Party [CHP] and the Nationalist Movement Party [MHP] are engaged in the same ‘cheating politics,’” said Hasip Kaplan, the BDP’s deputy parliamentary group leader.


Timing questioned


The timing of the indictment has started rumors of a power struggle between the legislative and jurisdictional branches of power, but a lawyer specializing in sports rejected the claims.  

“In penal crime, law amendments in favor of the suspects are retroactive,” Zümrüt Yezdani told the Hürriyet Daily News. “I don’t think the timing was significant in that subject, the indictment would have to be accepted in a maximum of 15 days’ time and this time it was accepted in seven days. So whether it is a coincidence or not, it would not affect the process.”  

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) is set to start disciplinary process on the suspects, since the file is no longer listed as confidential, Chairman Mehmet Ali Aydinlar said Dec. 8.  

“Today we have applied to the court and asked for the documents and evidence. We will start our own investigations on the individuals after we will get it,” Aydinlar told reporters Dec. 8. “We aim to make our decisions on individuals right away, and on the teams at the end of the season.”  

Earlier this year, the TFF declined to make a decision on the teams since the investigation was filed as confidential, and suspects would not be shown the evidence, which would deprive them of the chance to defend themselves.  

Opposition parties criticized the timing of the indictment.   

“Good or bad, there is no law. Good or bad, there are implementations. The problem is getting out of the implementations,” MHP Ankara Deputy and Parliament National Education Youth Sports Commission member Özcan Yeniçeri said.  

“We think the judiciary has become problematic in Turkey. And this case is being dragged along with the chain of unending trials in Turkey. We have not seen the criminal charge turned down by the courts and we did not pass any laws to pardon anyone. We think sports should not be tied to courts, but in this country even terrorists are not put into prison for 15 years. How can a person who plots in sports be charged as such? We support this law because we think punishments for a crime need to be fair,” said Yeniçeri.