Trio face jail over match-fix plot
A Conference South footballer and two Far Eastern businessmen are facing possible jail sentences after being convicted of involvement in a plot to fix the results of lower league matches.
Former Whitehawk FC defender Michael Boateng was found guilty by an 11-1 majority verdict of conspiracy to commit bribery following a four-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court.
The 22-year-old player, of Davidson Road, Croydon, south London, was found guilty alongside businessmen Chann Sankaran and Krishna Ganeshan, who were unanimously convicted of the same offence.
During the trial, Sankaran, 33, and Ganeshan, 44, were described as the "central figures" in efforts to influence the outcome of matches in League Two and the Conference South.
Boateng, Sankaran and Ganeshan will be be sentenced on Friday for conspiracy to commit bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment.
Sankaran, of Hougang Avenue, Singapore; Ganeshan, of Hawthorn Road, Hastings, East Sussex, and Boateng had all denied a single count of conspiracy to offer, promise or give a financial advantage to other persons.
A fourth defendant, Hakeem Adelakun, who has also played for Brighton-based Whitehawk, was acquitted by the jury of any involvement in the conspiracy.
Adelakun, 23, of Thornton Heath, south London, told the jury he knew nothing at all about any plot to fix matches.
Meanwhile, jurors were discharged from reaching a verdict on a third ex-Whitehawk footballer, Moses Swaibu, after deliberating for more than 15 hours.
Swaibu, 25, of Tooley Street, Bermondsey, south London, denies a single count of conspiracy and was granted unconditional bail pending a retrial.
The Crown alleged at the start of the trial that Sankaran and Sri Lankan-born Ganeshan conspired to fix matches which they intended to place bets on.
Opening the case to the jury on May 19, prosecutor Robert Davies said Sankaran and Ganeshan travelled to the UK from Singapore intending to target non-league conference football.
The two businessmen intended to use the minimum level of bribe to get the maximum betting return, the court heard.
"They've come across to the UK with a plan to find lower league players willing to take a bribe or encourage other players to do so," Mr Davies told the jury.
A spokesman for Whitehawk FC said Adelakun and Boateng had been dismissed after being suspended following their arrest in November last year.
The club spokesman said: "We fully co-operated with the authorities and we have never been told that any game involving our club was affected."
Swaibu, who made a handful of appearances for Whitehawk, was no longer on the club's playing staff at the time of the allegations at the centre of the court proceedings.
A National Crime Agency (NCA) inquiry into the conspiracy began when the Daily Telegraph presented the agency with evidence from its own undercover investigation.
In a statement issued after today's verdicts, the NCA said the plot had failed in efforts to influence the result of a match between AFC Wimbledon and Dagenham and Redbridge on November 26 last year.
NCA branch commander Richard Warner said: "The Telegraph's investigation suggested that Sankaran and Ganeshan were coming to the UK intent on fixing football matches.
"Our priority when they arrived was to determine the extent of their plans and identify any networks they might have had access to."
Sankaran and Ganeshan flew into Manchester airport on November 21 last year and were then monitored by surveillance teams, the NCA said.
Mr Warner added: "The NCA is in no doubt that Ganeshan and Sankaran were at the very beginning of a concerted attempt to build a network of corrupt players in the UK.
"Their aim was to influence play so that they could make spot bets and manipulate scorelines to generate large sums of money."