Chopra facing ban after bribery claim


Michael Chopra, the Ipswich Town striker, has been charged by the British Horseracing Authority with offering to bribe Andrew Heffernan, a jockey confined to the sport's margins, and "conspiring to commit a corrupt or fraudulent practice", following an investigation into betting on nine races between November 2010 and March 2011.

He is alleged to have conspired with James Coppinger, a midfielder with Nottingham Forest, and Mark Wilson, once of Manchester United but recently released by Oxford United. Along with five others, these are charged with laying Heffernan's mounts on betting exchanges – or causing others to do so – after receiving information from the jockey. Wilson is also among those charged with offering him a bribe.

The Football Association is aware of the charges, but is understood to be awaiting the outcome of the BHA inquest – for which no date has yet been set – before considering any disciplinary action of its own.

At the best of times, the racing authorities announce corruption charges with due ambivalence about the effect on perceptions of their sport. In yesterday accusing three professional footballers of involvement in a race-fixing conspiracy, they duly braced themselves for a fairly sensational journey to the facts.

Few laymen, certainly, will ponder the BHA's vigilance in raising its concerns about Heffernan. Most will doubtless prefer to view allegations against Chopra, formerly of Cardiff City and Sunderland, in a tradition of venality in those who ride horses, as well as those who bet on them.

Chopra, 28, has a history of gambling problems, entering rehabilitation clinics in 2008 and again last autumn. That summer he had joined Ipswich from Cardiff, and his new employers loaned him around £250,000 to help pay off debts. Last November, he admitted to gambling as much as £20,000 a day, estimating his total losses between £1.5m and £2m. "I was playing through injury to cover a debt," he said.

Heffernan, 24, was struggling to establish himself as a rider and few noticed his disappearance from the British scene after August 2011. Only two of his previous 92 mounts had won. Now licensed to ride in Australia, he is understood to be working for a leading stable in New South Wales.

Some racing professionals view BHA regulations on "inside information" as too credulous, and have been concerned by the levels of proof that have satisfied its disciplinary panel in previous cases, notably in assuming that information has been exchanged for reward. But the various charges against Heffernan include some at the gravest end of the spectrum: receiving or offering to receive a bribe; and, in three of the nine races, deliberately failing to obtain the best possible placing. That offence carries a maximum suspension of 25 years.

After one of those three races, the respected Timeform organisation found that Wanchai Whisper had been "set plenty to do" despite "travelling smoothly" and let the winner "get first run". In another, Heffernan reported that Gallantry had lost its action – Timeform recorded that he had been "free to post" before running "flat" – while the third horse suffered a heart attack after the race.

The various unlicensed individuals, including the three footballers, meanwhile face charges that could see them excluded from the sport for up to 10 years. None have made any comment and all are likely to plead not guilty. It is vital, on behalf of all those charged, to stress that riders have been cleared of "inside information" breaches in recent cases, even when the BHA was certain it had powerful evidence against them.

Regardless of the outcome, however, many in the sport will be depressed by the unsurprising profile of the races under review: each contested on all-weather tracks, by mediocre horses, for worse prize-money.

Paul Scotney, the BHA director of integrity services, said that the charges followed a "long and complicated" investigation. "We encountered difficulties in obtaining telephone records from certain individuals who refused to co-operate," he said. "This resulted in us having to make a number of applications to the High Court. We hope that today's announcement demonstrates our commitment to deterring and detecting wrong-doing and taking action against those we believe to have breached the rules," he said.

Races under review

Andrew Heffernan is accused of deliberately failing to obtain the best possible placing in three races:

Wanchai Whisper Lingfield, 28 January 2011. Odds: 9-2; Finished second of nine.

Gallantry Kempton, 2 February 2011 Odds: 11-1; Finished sixth of eight.

Silver Guest Lingfield, 9 February 2011 Odds: 6-1; Finished last of nine, beaten over 20 lengths.

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm that there was a 'minor disturbance'

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher Cornwall

£21500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: ***KS1 & KS2 Teachers ...

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album