By Constantinos Psillides
THE chairman of the Cyprus Referees’ Association (CRA) Michalis Argirou and former CRA member Michalis Spyrou were arrested on Wednesday night on suspicion of match fixing, a police source told the Cyprus Mail.
The two men were arrested early in the evening, following a meeting at the Legal Services with Attorney-general Costas Clerides and police investigators. They were both expected to spend the night in custody and give statements to investigators.
It is not yet clear whether the two men will appear in court on Thursday for a remand hearing. The police source told the Cyprus Mail that it will largely depend on their cooperation with authorities.
The two men are suspected of being involved in match-fixing during the 2011-2012 football season.
These are the first arrests following international referee Marios Panayi’s allegations of extensive match-fixing in the island’s top league, especially when it came to relegation matches.
They were preceded by the arrest of a football club official on Christmas Day, who was suspected of threatening former Aris Limassol football club president Kyriakos Hadjikyriakou. The alleged victim had been called in by investigators to give a statement and corroborated Panayi’s allegations. Upon leaving the police station, Hadjikyriakou told authorities that the other club official called and threatened him not to get involved.
Panayi caused an uproar within the football community when he gave a press conference in December claiming that he had recordings, documents and other evidence proving that members of the Cyprus Football Association 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 over a two-day deposition.
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 records.
Panayi named Giorgos Koumas, CFA’s deputy head, as the man behind the match fixing circuit. Panayi even went as far as telling the press that “if the umbilical cord connecting Koumas to refereeing isn’t cut, football is doomed.”
Koumas didn’t respond to Panayi’s allegations, although the CFA issued several statements rejecting the implication of any of its members to match-fixing.
In a press conference last week, CFA head Costakis Koutsokoumnis lashed out against politicians calling for the entire CFA board resignation in light of the scandal, while announcing that Panayi’s allegations will be investigated by an independent committee appointed by the CFA.
During his conference, Koutsokoumnis had stated his certainty that the case will lead nowhere. This prompted a reaction from Justice minister Ionas Nicolaou, as well as the main opposition party AKEL. Nicolaou had expressed his amazement over Koutsokoumnis’ knowledge about the outcome of the investigation, assuring the public that the case will be thoroughly investigated. AKEL general secretary Andros Kyprianou also expressed his amazement over Koutsokoumnis’ certainty, demanding to know whether the CFA head had access to the investigation.