Spanish court clears 36 players in match-fixing case

Herrera, who was playing for Zaragoza at the time, is 1 of many cleared. (AFP pic)

BARCELONA: A Spanish court cleared 36 players of wrongdoing Monday in a high-profile match-fixing case related to a 2011 game between Real Zaragoza and Levante.

The judge dismissed allegations the match had been fixed, citing a lack of evidence, and cleared over 40 people accused of sporting corruption.

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Ander Herrera, Mexican coach Javier Aguirre, and former Atletico Madrid captain Gabi Fernandez, all at Zaragoza at the time, were among the defendants in a trial that began in September.

The match on the final day of the season was won 2-1 by Zaragoza which spared the club from relegation to the second division.

But it triggered an investigation by Spain’s anti-corruption prosecutors’ office over suspect payments to playing staff and coaches.

Prosecutors suspected Zaragoza deposited €965,000 in the bank accounts of some of their players and coaching staff so that they, in turn, could bribe Levante players to deliberately lose the game.

However, at the end of the trial, only ex-Zaragoza president Agapito Iglesias and his former financial director Javier Porquera were convicted of fraud.

They were given 15-month jail terms although are unlikely to face prison as sentences of up to two years are generally not enforced in Spain for first-time offenders in non-violent crimes.

An investigating judge had shelved the long-running probe into the match in 2017 but the case was reopened following an appeal by state prosecutors, the Spanish League and Deportivo La Coruna, the club relegated as a result of Zaragoza’s win.