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Charges dropped in 'match-fix' case

Prosecutors have dropped the case against 13 footballers investigated over alleged match-fixing after considering the reliability of evidence from "Fake Sheikh" Mazher Mahmood.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said there was "insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction" in the case in light of the collapse of Tulisa Contostavlos's trial.

The former X Factor judge was cleared of brokering a cocaine deal in July last year following a newspaper sting led by Mr Mahmood, after Judge Alistair McCreath said there were "strong grounds" to believe The Sun On Sunday reporter lied in the witness box.

Contostavlos's rapper friend Mike GLC - real name Michael Coombs - was also cleared after he pleaded guilty to supplying cocaine.

A CPS spokeswoman said: "A file was passed to the CPS in July 2014 from the National Crime Agency (NCA) in relation to alleged football match-fixing in 2013. This case involved evidence in relation to 13 suspects.

"The reliability of the evidence of one alleged witness in particular had to be very carefully considered in light of recent events in the trial of R - v - Contostavlos and Coombs.

"This was not the only evidence that was considered and when all the evidence submitted by investigators was carefully reviewed in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors it was decided that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.

"We have informed the NCA of this decision and they have written to the suspects announcing that no further action will be taken."

The 13 footballers were arrested as part of an investigation into alleged bribery and money laundering, the NCA said.

In April, seven players from Football League clubs based in the north west of England were arrested in connection with alleged spot-fixing and another six were rearrested over the claims.

The original six suspects were arrested as part of the inquiry in December 2013, prompted by information passed on by the Sun on Sunday.

The tabloid reported that an undercover investigator met ex-Portsmouth player Sam Sodje, who allegedly said he could arrange for footballers in the Championship to get themselves a yellow card in return for tens of thousands of pounds.

The 35-year-old also claimed he could rig Premier League games and even said he was preparing to fix matches at next year's World Cup in Brazil, the newspaper reported.

At the time Portsmouth FC said that Sodje no longer played for the club, but that it would co-operate fully with any investigation if it was approached by the authorities.

It was also claimed that Oldham Athletic player Cristian Montano failed to get a yellow card in return for money in a match against Wolverhampton Wanderers on October 22 and offered to take part in another rigging incident.

Blackburn striker DJ Campbell was confirmed to be one of the six players who were arrested in December 2013.

Last month, the CPS said it was re-examining criminal convictions in 25 cases where evidence was given by Mr Mahmood and it had offered no evidence in three live cases where the undercover reporter was a prosecution witness.

Mr Mahmood, a former reporter for the News of the World, was suspended by the Sun on Sunday after the collapse of Contostavlos's trial.

In September, several trials at Southwark Crown Court in London were halted because they relied on evidence from the undercover reporter.

The CPS offered no evidence against Dr Majeed Ridha and pharmacist Murtaza Gulamhusein, who were accused of illegally supplying an abortion drug.

And fixer to the stars Leon "Starino" Anderson and co-defendant Ashley Gordon, 21, had drugs charges dismissed after prosecutors said Mr Mahmood was not reliable.

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