Players freed but `bribery' claims go on

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The Independent Online
Three Premiership footballers and a businessman arrested over allegations of match-fixing were released on police bail yesterday as new accusations were made that English games are being rigged.

Bruce Grobbelaar, John Fashanu, Hans Segers, and a Malaysian businessman, Heng Suan Lim, were questioned about allegations of bribery involving Asian gambling syndicates. The men, who were held in cells overnight, must report to the police at a later date.

Fashanu's girlfriend, Melissa Kassamapsi, who was also arrested in connection with the four-month investigation by Hampshire police, was released on police bail last night. Fashanu, 31, a presenter of the Gladiators television programme, and Grobbelaar last night both denied wrong-doing.

Meanwhile, a journalist on a Malaysian newspaper, which is where the supposed match-fixing is organised, said yesterday he had been contacted by an illegal gambling syndicate which gave him the scores of three English games before they were played. Johnson Fernandez, an experienced sports journalist on the Malay Mail, also said an underworld contact had named four players in the Premiership who were taking bribes.

He said the tip-off came from a member of a Far Eastern syndicate of illegal bookmakers who had regularly telephoned him, but stopped doing so after the police investigation was launched in Britain. He said: "They often tell us about Malaysian matches that are rigged, but this was the first time we had information about English ones. These guys know what they are talking about. They are not boasting, they believe they are untouchable." He denied that the had been given Hampshire police any information.

Following his release Grobbelaar, 37, formerly with Liverpool and now with Southampton, held a press conference at which his solicitor, David Hewitt, said: "Bruce denies any involvement in any criminal activity whatever, whether as an individual or in concert with other people, and we are confident that will be the ultimate outcome."

Grobbelaar refused to comment on the allegations. He said: "I hope I get back playing football and hopefully I will be selected for the squad on Saturday."

The solicitor for Fashanu, formerly of Wimbledon and now with Aston Villa, also issued a statement that said: "From the moment the allegations about Bruce Grobbelaar appeared in newspapers John has been aware there had been attempts to implicate him in the story. He very much regrets the hysterical coverage of the matter so far as he is concerned. He has not been charged with any offence. He is completely innocent."

Segers, 33, Wimbledon's goalkeeper, was said to be in good spirits last night.

The five people were arrested by police on Tuesday. Yesterday morning, police obtained permission to hold all except Fashanu for a further 12 hours. After that, police needed to charge them or obtain permission from a magistrate to hold them longer.

Players bemused, page 2

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