By Constantinos Psillides
FORMER member of the Cyprus Referees Association (CRA) Michalis Spyrou, 56, was remanded by the Limassol District court on Thursday for four days in custody, in suspicion of match-fixing and corruption.
Spyrou was arrested on Wednesday night along with the chairman of the CRA, Michalis Argirou, following allegations by international referee Marios Panayi, who claimed in December that high ranking Cyprus Football Association (CFA) members were responsible for extensive match-fixing.
The remand hearing for Argirou will be concluded on Friday. Meanwhile, the suspect remains in police custody.
Police secured a statement by Panayi, who alleged that Spyrou called him on four occasions in 2010 and asked him to help right-wing teams, “especially those supporting DISY.”
Spyrou appears to have promised the referee a promotion and a positive evaluation, despite any mistakes he would make.
None of the matches in question were in the top league. According to the police report, the allegations are in connection to a third division game – Spartakos Kitiou versus Digenis Oroklinis – a fourth division match – Constantinos and Evripides Trachonas versus Phoenix Agias Marinas Chrysochous – and two U21 matches – Aris Limassol versus Omonoia Nicosia and Pafos versus Omonoia Nicosia.
Spyrou is suspected of conspiring to commit a felony, bribing a state official, abusing authority and corruption.
Argirou and Spyrou were arrested on Wednesday evening following a meeting at the Legal Services with Attorney-general Costas Clerides and police investigators..
These are the first arrests following Panayi’s allegations of extensive match-fixing in the island’s top league, especially when it came to relegation matches.
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 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 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 needed 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.