Chopra found guilty of race-fixing scam
Michael Chopra, the Ipswich Town footballer with a notorious history of gambling problems, was today banned from British racecourses for 10 years after being found guilty of a key role in a race-fixing conspiracy that has ruined the career of a young jockey. Andrew Heffernan was himself disqualified for 15 years by the British Horseracing Authority while seven others, including two lesser-known professional footballers, were also punished for their involvement.
Chopra did not defend himself at the inquiry, claiming that debts made it impossible for him to pay legal fees that could reach £50,000. In a statement before it opened, he indicated that he would welcome any prohibition from the temptations of racing.
The inquiry focused on nine all-weather races in 2010-11, in which Heffernan's mounts were laid to lose on betting exchanges. In threecases, he was accused of "intentionally" failing to ensure the horses ran on their merits. He was also charged with passing information for reward, and offering to receive, or receiving, a bribe.
He had since left to try his luck in Australia, but his licence there was suspended in October, and his disqualification is set to be reciprocated worldwide.
The BHA has sometimes seemed too credulous about the value of "inside information", or to settle for too low a standard of evidence about reward. This case, however, appears to feature something fairly close to a smoking gun. Though several of the accused gave conflicting accounts, sometimes implicating each other, the BHA is satisfied that a luridly compromising sequence of text messages had been sent between Heffernan and Chopra. These include details of a bank account in the name of Heffernan's brother, and a specific commitment to pay £2,000. (In the event, it appears that only £800 was paid.) One of the accused also testified to witnessing payments received at service stations and outside pubs.
Though Chopra's involvement will inevitably amplify the scandal, the BHA argues that the case reiterates its vigilance. "Investigations of this scale are extremely complex, especially when we are faced with a lack of cooperation, evasion, and untruthful accounts from many of those being investigated," it said in a statement. "It is as a result of significant hard work that a successful conclusion has been achieved, and further evidence that the BHA is prepared to properly investigate cases involving unlicensed as well as licensed individuals."
Chopra was warned off for 10 years for conspiring to commit a corrupt and fraudulent practice. Mark Wilson, recently reduced to non-league football, was also disqualified for 10 years, while James Coppinger, of Doncaster Rovers, was banned for three. Two former stable employees, Paul Garner and Kelly Inglis, were banned for 12 and four years respectively. Three others took the aggregate suspensions to 70 years between nine conspirators.
A statement from Ipswich Town described the case as "a private matter" between Chopra and the BHA.
Latest in Sport
Why does Manuel Pellegrini keep picking Martin Demichelis for Manchester City?
England 29 Wales 18 player ratings: Who was the star man at Twickenham?
David Meyler, Samuel Eto'o and the best, most controversial and bizarre goal celebrations
Bayern Munich v Arsenal: 10 reasons for Arsenal to be optimistic of Champions League progress
Bayern Munich v Arsenal: Arsene Wenger pleads for 'fair chance' from referee as Arsenal look to turn around Champions League deficit
- 2 Family forced to flee home after discovering 'terrifying' nest of spiders in bananas
- 3 First Kiss: Filmmaker gets 20 strangers to make out on YouTube with awkward results
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: One of the largest mobile advert...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Our client specialises in creati...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Private Cli...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residential...