Three footballers charged over suspicious horse racing betting

Allegations centre on horses being laid to lose on betting exchanges

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Jockey Andrew Heffernan is among nine people charged with serious breaches of the rules of racing.

Among the other eight unlicensed individuals are three footballers - Michael Chopra of Ipswich Town, Nottingham Forest's James Coppinger and former England Under-21 international Mark Wilson.

The allegations centre on horses being laid to lose on betting exchanges in races that took place between November 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011.

The charges relate to Heffernan's riding of three horses - Wanchai Whisper, Gallantry and Silver Guest.

All nine are accused of conspiring with other persons to commit a corrupt or fraudulent practice.

Heffernan, who is now in Australia, is charged with communicating directly or indirectly to one or more betting exchange account holders information relating to the prospects in the race of that horse.

He is also charged with giving information in return for some reward, that he offered to receive or received a bribe and that he intentionally failed to ensure that a horse ridden by him was run on its merits.

Of the unlicensed individuals, Chopra, Paul Garner, Yogesh Joshee, Douglas Shelley and Wilson have also been charged with offering bribes to Heffernan.

Kelly Inglis is also charged with conniving with Heffernan to offer to receive bribes from Chopra, Garner, Joshee, Shelley and Wilson.

Garner is also charged of placing lay bets on horses trained by Alan McCabe at a time when he was entered as an employee at that stable.

Paul Scotney, Director of Integrity Services, Compliance and Licensing for the British Horseracing Authority, said: "The charges BHA has issued today are the result of a long and complicated investigation.

"This process has taken significant time and resources. However, investigations such as these are very similar to fraud investigations and as such are complex and time consuming.

"Furthermore, we encountered difficulties in obtaining telephone records from certain individuals who refused to co-operate.

"This resulted in us having to make a number of applications to the High Court for orders against their mobile telephone service providers for disclosure of the relevant records.

"We hope that today's announcement demonstrates our commitment to deterring and detecting wrong-doing and taking action against those who we believe to have breached the Rules.

"However, racegoers and those betting on British racing should be reassured that instances of this nature are extremely rare and that the overwhelming majority of races are free of suspicion."

No comment has yet been offered by those charged, although it is thought that they will deny the allegations.