'Fake Sheikh' trial collapses but fixing war far from over

FA alive to ongoing corruption threat despite case against DJ Campbell and 12 others being dropped

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Mazher Mahmood, the “Fake Sheikh” of tabloid sting infamy, had been under police investigation for months before the final collapse of the match-fixing case against 13 footballers and their associates.

The case is just the latest to have been dumped by prosecutors because of the central role played by the reporter, who was abandoned as a “witness of truth” after being accused of lying at the trial of pop singer Tulisa Contostavlos. The reporter had accused her of trying to broker a drugs deal but she walked free after the judge criticised his evidence in court.

In the original newspaper article in the football match-fixing case, Mahmood said that one player had agreed to earn a yellow card in a Championship game for £30,000. Posing as a middleman claiming to represent gamblers in the Far East, Mahmood met with Sam Sodje, a former Portsmouth player, and his brother Stephen, during which he said they “reeled off the list of prices they charge for each alleged fix”.

Sources close to the case indicated that the reporter’s technique of enticing people into apparent promises of corrupt deals was followed up with threats of violence if they did not carry them out. The collapse of the case against the 13 was the inevitable outcome after they were released from police bail in July following the harsh criticism of Mahmood at Contostavlos’s trial.

Cases against a doctor and pharmacist accused of selling abortion pills have also been dropped following a sting for The Sunday Times by the reporter. The case has also been abandoned against public relations fixer Leon Anderson and a relative, who were accused of drugs offences following a story Mahmood published in the Sun on Sunday.

It is understood that more than 15 people are preparing to sue the owners of the now defunct News of the World because of career-ending stings by Mahmood, and they are likely to be joined by some of the footballers accused of match-fixing.

But the decision to end any legal action against the footballers – who included former Blackpool and Queen’s Park Rangers striker D J Campbell, Oldham’s Cristian Montano and Tranmere defender Ian Goodison – is not an end to legal woes facing the game.

A separate investigation by the National Crime Agency, which does not involve Mahmood, is continuing following jail sentences for one lower league player and two businessmen who set out to corrupt the game.

The Football Association announced today that Michael Boateng, a former player for Conference South team Whitehawk, had been banned for life from football and any related activities. He was jailed for 16 months while the two businessmen were jailed for five years for conspiracy to bribe over the fixing of the results of football matches.

The two businessmen were caught on camera by a National Crime Agency surveillance operation paying off Boateng and later placing large bets on the outcome of games. “The NCA takes allegations of bribery and corruption extremely seriously and will pursue investigations where it is in the public interest to do so,” it said in a statement.

The agency said it believed the businessmen were at the start of a concerted attempt to build up a network of corrupt players in Britain. As part of that continuing operation, the former Bolton player Delroy Facey is due to stand trial later this year.