Grobbelaar jury fails to reach a verdict

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The Independent Online
The four defendants in the match-fixing case face a probable retrial after a jury at Winchester Crown Court yesterday failed to reach a verdict following a 34-day trial.

Judge Mr Justice Tuckey discharged the jury of nine men and three women after almost 11 hours of deliberation when it became clear that they could not reach a verdict on the allegations of a conspiracy involving three professional footballers to fix Premier League football matches, in order to help a Far East betting syndicate earn millions of pounds.

The prosecution counsel, David Calvert Smith, said they would be seeking a retrial. A decision, with advice from Sir Nicholas Lyell, the Attorney General, is likely within a few days.

None of the three footballers - the former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, the former Wimbledon striker John Fashanu or Hans Segers, the former Wimbledon player - commented as they left court. Grobbelaar's solicitor, David Hewitt, said later the footballer was extremely disappointed. The fourth defendant, the Malaysian businessman Heng Suan Lim, said: "I have always maintained my innocence and I will continue to do so." The men were given bail.

The jury had to decide whether they believed that the four had been involved in such a conspiracy, or merely predicting match results.

It was common ground between the defence and prosecution that the four had been connected to a betting syndicate in Indonesia, for which Segers and Grobbelaar were forecasting the outcomes of football matches. But the men denied a prosecution claim that the forecasting had been the "bait" to ensnare them into trying to throw games.

They were charged with corruptly conspiring to give or receive money to try to influence the outcome of football matches.Grobbelaar, 39, was also charged with accepting pounds 2,000 from his former business partner and friend, Christopher Vincent, as inducement to influence a game. All denied the charges.

Mr Vincent, a Zimbabwean, like Grobbelaar, was the main prosecution witness. The court heard how, after the collapse of a joint business venture, he had approached the Sun newspaper in September 1994 with the twin intentions of making as much money as possible and "destroying" Grobbelaar - with allegations that the footballer had "thrown" football matches.

The Sun had secretly videotaped meetings between the pair in which Mr Vincent pretended to have details of a "new" betting syndicate; during the meetings the goalkeeper is heard apparently admitting trying to throw matches, including one - against Newcastle - from which he was said to have made pounds 40,000. He also claimed he had "lost" pounds 125,000 after his team, Liverpool, had drawn 3-3 with Manchester United. The Sun's report in November 1994 led to an investigation by Hampshire police.

In his evidence Grobbelaar, now with Plymouth Argyle, said he had been stringing Mr Vincent along, to find out what his former friend was up to and who was behind the meetings.

He also said that in an untaped meeting he had told Mr Vincent that fixing matches was silly and could not be done.

The prosecution accepted that Mr Vincent, a failed businessman, had been motivated by greed in approaching the Sun - for which he received pounds 35,000 - but claimed the tapes plus surrounding evidence backed his story. Grobbelaar had been motivated by anger at the level of his pay compared to colleagues as he neared the end of his career said the prosecution, an accusation the footballer dismissed. The defence said Mr Vincent had been the "villain" of the piece, in contrast to the football "heroes", and that he was a mercenary witness.

Calvert Smith, for the prosecution, had said that Mr Lim, 31, had been the "representative" of the betting syndicate whose role was to recruit footballers to help fix matches. The Gladiators presenter Fashanu, 34, now retired from football, had been the "middle man", said the prosecution, recruiting the two goalkeepers to fix the matches. There was evidence that Segers had paid in more than pounds 104,000 in cash to a Swiss account, Fashanu had received more than pounds 200,000 from the Far East, and Mr Lim pounds 500,000, also from the Far East.

The defendants admitted they had been involved in match forecasting - which is not illegal, though it may breach Football Association guidelines - for the syndicate; but said they had not been involved in rigging any matches.