Soccer star 'took bribes to fix games'

Liverpool goalkeeper received pounds 40,000 after his team lost 3-0, court told
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The Independent Online
The former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar was offered "big bucks" to throw matches and later received pounds 40,000 after his side lost 3-0 in a Premier League game, a court was told yesterday.

Mr Grobbelaar, now with Southampton, John Fashanu and the former Wimbledon goalkeeper Hans Segers are accused of receiving or giving money to influence the results of matches. A fourth defendant, Heng Suan Lim, is said to have been "representative" of an Indonesian-based syndicate betting on the outcome of the fixed games.

David Calvert Smith QC, for the prosecution at Winchester Crown Court, said Mr Grobbelaar told a business partner in 1993 that he was embittered by how little Liverpool paid him compared to other players and wanted to make extra money. In the 1993-94 season, he received a pounds 160,000 gross salary, the 13th best paid Liverpool player.

He allegedly told the friend, Christopher Vincent, how he could make more money. "Grobbelaar said the syndicate was prepared to pay him big bucks and wanted him to chuck games," said Mr Calvert Smith. "And he was going to get pounds 40,000 to pounds 60,000 a game if he was prepared to do the business."

After Liverpool lost 3-0 to Newcastle in November 1993, Mr Grobbelaar allegedly phoned Mr Vincent to say it had been a "good result". Mr Calvert Smith added: "If Vincent is right then it certainly had been." The same witness said Mr Grobbelaar later collected pounds 40,000 in cash in the presence of Mr Fashanu, a former Wimbledon and Aston Villa player now retired through injury. The Crown had evidence of how Mr Grobbelaar and Mr Vincent had disposed of the money, said Mr Calvert Smith.

At the start of the case, he outlined the earnings of the three footballers. In his last three years at Liverpool, Mr Grobbelaar had dropped in an unofficial table of highest-paid players from 8th to 13th. Mr Fashanu, 33, received pounds 200,000 a year with Wimbledon and got a pounds 200,000 signing- on fee when he moved to Aston Villa. Mr Segers had earned pounds 80,000 as Wimbledon's goalkeeper.

The prosecution had no clear idea what the Malaysian-born Mr Lim, 31, had done in employment during the period, but he had studied accountancy, been involved in selling cars, and was involved in a restaurant.

Mr Calvert Smith said the "corrupt scheme" to throw matches was revealed after Mr Vincent approached The Sun for financial gain to tell the story about Mr Grobbelaar. When the story was published in 1994, Hampshire police investigated and later interviewed Mr Grobbelaar, 38.

Mr Calvert Smith said that in interviews taped by The Sun Mr Grobbelaar had effectively admitted his actions; there were also many phone calls and further documentary proof which backed up the claims of Mr Vincent, whose evidence had to be taken with a pinch of salt, said Mr Calvert Smith. Mr Segers, 34, received large sums from Indonesia during the football season and after matches which Wimbledon had lost, said Mr Calvert Smith.

His explanation that he received the money from crimes committed as a teenager were implausible in the extreme. The idea was that he would do what he could to influence the result of games in order that the syndicate could more safely bet on their outcome, said Mr Calvert Smith.

Crucial to the case were hundreds of telephone calls linking Messrs Lim, Segers, Fashanu, and Grobbelaar. The Crown had found no evidence or business links with Indonesia which could justify Mr Fashanu's financial gains, said Mr Calvert Smith.

Mr Grobbelaar is also accused of accepting pounds 2,000 from Mr Vincent in The Sun "sting" as an inducement or reward for influencing the outcome of a match. Mr Calvert Smith said Mr Grobbelaar had got to know Mr Vincent through a business deal involving safari tours in their native Zimbabwe and the two men had become close friends.

He said the jury may not have much sympathy for a man (Mr Vincent) who received money from a newspaper for a story about Mr Grobbelaar and who apparently had a book planned on the subject. "His decision to expose Mr Grobbelaar's activities was the result of a business quarrel and not a desire to prevent corruption." But there was both direct and indirect evidence, including statements from other witnesses, which substantiated many of Mr Vincent's claims.

Mr Vincent said that Mr Grobbelaar had used a code in his dealings with Mr Lim - to whom he referred as the "short man" or "Dubka".

When he was on the phone with Mr Lim, said Mr Calvert Smith, Mr Grobbelaar used a code to represent whether a match would be won, lost, drawn. For example, the name Wimbledon was used to represent a win, as it began with W, the name Leeds represented a loss and Dundee would refer to a draw. Other teams' names were disguised. For example the team Leeds was referred to as London because it too began with an L. Mr Calvert Smith said: "There was a certain amount of concealment or code in operation."

He said that in September 1993 Mr Vincent claimed he had gone with Mr Grobbelaar to the Hilton Hotel at Manchester airport, where the goalkeeper had allegedly received pounds 1,000 in cash - handed over during a brief meeting in a hotel lavatory, apparently because Mr Grobbelaar wanted to avoid being seen carrying out the transaction in a public place.

According to Mr Vincent, Mr Grobbelaar had initially been involved in a legal scheme through Mr Fashanu to "advise" the syndicate in Indonesia about the likely results of matches but there was evidence that he had later become "hooked" in the fixing of matches, said Mr Calvert Smith.

At another meeting in November 1993, Mr Grobbelaar had met Mr Lim again, this time at Heathrow airport, to receive another pounds 1,000 - though Mr Vincent claimed only pounds 750 was handed over.

Mr Calvert Smith said Mr Lim's contacts in Indonesia were a man called Johannes Josef, who had come to London and stayed at the Dorchester Hotel on several occasions and Mr Josef's partner, Elly.

All four men deny the charges. The case continues.