By Elias Hazou
An arrest warrant was issued on Tuesday for an official from Limassol-based ARIS football club in connection with match-fixing allegations made last week by referee Marios Panayi.
The warrant was issued against 40-year-old Panayiotis Panayiotou after the former chairman of ARIS, Kyriacos Hadjikyriacou reported that he had received threats from Panayiotou after his voluntary testimony to the police last Saturday, concerning ARIS’ relegation in 2012.
Politis reported that Panayiotou was now wanted by the police as he was not found in his house after the warrant was issued.
However a statement just released (around 11.00pm) by Aris club denies that the person behind the threats is the Aris official Panayiotis Panayiotou.
Police said on Tuesday that evidence obtained from the headquarters of the football association (CFA) was being evaluated.
Late on Monday evening police, executing a court warrant, searched the CFA offices in Nicosia, seizing 20 desktop computers, six laptops and a large number of documents.
Authorities have launched a probe into the CFA’s affairs after allegations by Panayi of widespread match-fixing in the top league.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou pledged authorities would leave no stone unturned.
The case has been assigned priority and police would work swiftly so that the investigation does not drag out, he added.
Detectives would be calling in for questioning some of the individuals alleged to be implicated.
Asked about the ‘red’ and ‘yellow’ dossiers sent by UEFA to the CFA in the past, Nicolaou said that a number of these have been forwarded to the Attorney-general’s office.
A meeting has been scheduled for early January at the AG’s office to see how those cases can be pursued, he added, explaining that restrictions under Cypriot law on using telephone data as evidence – a useful tool in other countries – has hampered investigations.
UEFA compiles ‘red’ and ‘yellow’ dossiers and sends them to the national competent authority. The dossiers document matches flagged for suspicious betting behaviour, which may indicate they were fixed. While UEFA has flagged a number of matches in Cyprus over the years, not a single case has ever found its way to court.
Referee Panayi caused an uproar within the football community when last week he gave a press conference claiming that he had recordings, documents and other evidence proving that members of the CFA were fixing matches, in particular those deciding which team would be relegated to the second division.
The whistle-blower subsequently gave police a lengthy statement.
According to reports, much of the information Panayi has supplied comprises audio recordings and emails. Because a great deal of this information was illegally obtained, it cannot be used in court, which is partly why police need to corroborate Panayi’s allegations by getting hold of the CFA’s documents.
Panayi is said to have named a number of officials as well as politicians as being involved. Citing its sources, Politis reports that the referee has named former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas – in hot water with the law over other cases – as having on one occasion tried to fix a match involving Pafiakos, a Paphos club.
Panayi had previously called on the leaders of the three main parliamentary parties – DISY, AKEL and DIKO – to publicly declare whether they or their representatives had secret meetings with CFA members. All parties have rejected the accusations, demanding that the case be thoroughly investigated.
Meanwhile CFA boss Kostas Koutsokoumnis – whom Panayi called a straw man and accused of knowing about dodgy practices but keeping quiet – has publically admitted that match-fixing does exist in Cyprus.
Appearing on a CyBC TV sports show on Monday evening, Koutsokoumnis surmised that if only 20 to 30 per cent of the 17 files compiled by UEFA have any meat to them, “then yes, there must be match-fixing.”
Asked by the somewhat surprised journalist as to whether – as sports fans widely suspect – games are usually fixed towards the tail end of the season, the CFA boss offered: “The writing’s on the wall.”
However, Koutsokoumnis dismissed the notion that he should quit, denying any wrongdoing.
“I have still six months left, and I’ve got nothing to feel guilty about. Kostakis Koutsokoumnis is not football’s problem,” he said, referring to himself in the third person.
He also appealed to police to return the seized computer gear at their earliest convenience, otherwise the CFA would be unable to function.
MP Demetris Syllouris, chairman of the House ethics committee, on Tuesday called on the CFA leadership to resign, saying they should have already done so.
Syllouris also urged authorities to move fast in the investigation, in order to prevent a cover-up and destruction of evidence.