Belfast Telegraph

John Higgins welcomes outcome of match-fixing probe

Snooker's world number one John Higgins last night welcomed the outcome of a hearing that cleared him of match-fixing but imposed a six-month ban.

Higgins, who was also fined £75,000, admitted breaching rules around betting at the two-day London hearing.

The 35-year-old Scot was suspended in May, pending an investigation into allegations of frame-throwing made by the 'News Of The World'.

He admitted "intentionally giving the impression to others that they were agreeing to act in breach of the betting rules" and failing to report the matter promptly to the governing body, World Snooker.

However, the charges of "agreeing or offering" to accept bribes and "agreeing to engage in corrupt or fraudulent conduct" were dropped.

Higgins's manager at the time of the alleged offences, Pat Mooney, has been permanently suspended from the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA).

Speaking outside the hearing yesterday, Higgins said he was pleased he had been found not guilty of any dishonesty, adding that he "had no intention to fix a match and no intention to do anything corrupt".

He continued: "I have never been involved in any form of snooker match-fixing. In my 18 years playing professional snooker, I've never deliberately missed a shot, never intentionally lost a frame or a match.

"I am glad the WPBSA's view of the events in Kiev reflects that statement.

"If I am guilty of anything, it is naivety and trusting those who I believed were working in the best interests of snooker and myself."

Higgins and Mooney, who was formerly on the board of the WPBSA, were filmed by the 'News Of The World' in Kiev allegedly agreeing to accept £261,000 (?317,000) in return for fixing the outcomes of four frames in matches to be played later this year.

Like Higgins, the two more serious charges against Mooney were withdrawn, while he admitted the other two.

Higgins always denied any wrongdoing and insisted that he would fight to clear his name, and the world governing body today agreed that the player "would never throw and had no intention at that meeting of throwing any frame of snooker for reward".

In his summary of decision, Mr Ian Mill QC said: "The association has explained that this withdrawal resulted from an acceptance, following an investigation which all concerned have correctly characterised as very thorough and fair, that Mr Higgins had truthfully accounted for his words and actions at the meeting in Kiev on April 30, selected extracts from which were widely publicised.

"In short, his account (which has remained consistent throughout) was as follows. Mr Higgins found himself in that meeting having only just beforehand been warned by Mr Mooney that there was a possibility (nothing more) that the subject of throwing frames might arise as part of the overall business discussions that were about to commence.

"Without any opportunity for mature reflection, Mr Higgins, who is by nature someone who seeks to avoid confrontation or unpleasantness, decided to play along with the discussion when the topic did indeed arise.

"He also found the atmosphere in the meeting somewhat intimidating. His focus was entirely on bringing the meeting to an end as soon as possible and getting on a plane home.

"I have no doubt that the association was right to conclude that this account by Mr Higgins was a truthful one."

The summary of decision laid the blame squarely at the door of Mooney, claiming that the manager had put the player in "a highly invidious position".

Mr Mill QC added: "Mr Mooney's conduct is, in my judgment, of a completely different order of seriousness.

"I was unimpressed by Mr Mooney as a witness and I found much of his account highly implausible."

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