Man claims group paid off ref in WC qualifier

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Man claims group paid off ref in WC qualifier

BOCHUM, Germany - A defendant in the trial of four men accused of match-fixing across Europe claimed on Wednesday that the group bribed a UEFA referee to manipulate the result of a 2010 World Cup qualifier.

The defendant told the court here that Bosnian referee Novo Panic, who has since been banned for life by European football’s governing body UEFA, helped fix the result of a qualifier between Liechtenstein and Finland in 2009.

The Group 4 game on Sept. 9, 2009 in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, ended in a 1-1 draw as Panic awarded a 73rd-minute penalty to Finland and sent a Liechtenstein player off after the hosts equalized. Germany went on to win Group 4 and neither team qualified for the 2010 World Cup.

The four men on trial here, whose identification is protected under German law, are accused of fixing 32 football matches in several European countries. If found guilty they could be jailed for up to 10 years.

The quartet have been in custody since November 2009, when German police made 15 total arrests. The trial is still ongoing.

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