Ref Hoyzer's match-rigging sentence confirmed

December 15, 2006

LEIPZIG, Germany, Dec 15 (Reuters) - A top German appeals court on Friday confirmed a prison sentence of two years and five months handed down last year to former German referee Robert Hoyzer for match-rigging.

Hoyzer, who was not present in court, was found guilty in Nov. 2005 of fixing games as part of a two million euro ($2.64 million) betting fraud that tarnished Germany's reputation ahead of the World Cup it hosted in June and July.

The Federal Court of Justice in Leipzig rejected appeals by the 27-year-old and five other defendants against the original ruling by a Berlin regional court.

The decision came as a surprise after Federal Prosecutor Hartmut Schneider said last month Hoyzer's conviction should be overturned because his actions did not clearly break any laws.

Schneider said the Berlin court did not properly examine previous rulings in similar types of cases and said that it had made a 'remarkably shallow' decision because of the public pressure to wrap up the case well before the World Cup.

Hoyzer's lawyer, Thomas Hermes, said Friday's ruling was 'bitter'. Because the decision was final, Hoyzer would have to begin his sentence soon, he added. 'But I expect this won't happen before the end of the year.'

Theo Zwanziger, president of the German Soccer Federation (DFB), said the ruling made clear that manipulation of football matches 'was no mere trifle but a scam punishable by law'. It would also help German soccer's image abroad, he added.

Hoyzer admitted fixing matches in the biggest scandal to hit German football in more than 30 years. He was found guilty of rigging games in return for payment from Croatian Ante Sapina and was convicted on six counts of accessory to fraud.

In one case, Hoyzer awarded regional league side Paderborn two penalties and sent off a rival player to help the team recover from two goals down to beat first division Hamburg SV in a German Cup match.

Sapina made more than 750,000 euros from Paderborn's 4-2 victory, the indictment said. Hoyzer's overall reward for the nine matches he fixed or tried to fix was 67,000 euros and an expensive new television set. Sapina was sentenced to two years and 11 months.