In a press conference that lasted well over 90 minutes, Valletta FC footballer Kevin Sammut pleaded his innocence and plied that he has nothing to do with the match-fixing case for which he was banned for 10 years by UEFA.
Flanked by his lawyers Michael Sciriha, Emanuel Mallia and Lucio Sciriha, a jittery Sammut said "I love football and I do not want to carry this ban for the rest of my life. I thank my lawyers and friends for supporting me during this difficult time."
He added that contrary to some calls coming from some quarters for him to uncover the truth about the case, Sammut said "There is nothing I can uncover. I do not know anything about this whole case."
One of Sammut's defence team, Michael Sciriha insisted that the player is innocent but said that due to shortcomings in the trial "we could not prove the innocence of Kevin Sammut."
The defence team said that Sammut had a right to a fair hearing and the press conference was held to make things clear to the people and defend their client's rights.
Sciriha said the defence team was prepared to prove the falsity of allegations against Sammut but the Valletta FC and Malta midfielder was not granted a fair trial.
He shed doubts on the trial by saying that UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Board might have acted in haste and was prejudiced.
"The life ban requested for Sammut was not dished out because the board had doubts about the allegations. Instead of resulting in nothing, these doubts resulted in a 10-year-ban."
The lawyer added that Sammut was made a scapegoat and "paid a price he should never had paid."
At the beginning of the lengthy press conference Emanuel Mallia gave an overview of the case and read out the correspondence between the defence team and UEFA. He said the correspondence proved that the proceedings and accusations against Sammut were flawed from the very begggining.
On Friday Sammut was banned from the game for 10 years following the conclusion of investigations by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary board into match-fixing allegations in the Euro 2008 qualifier between Norway and Malta.
Mallia insisted that the process of natural justice was blatantly ignored by UEFA, because it did not give enough time to the defence team to examine the accusations.
The defence received notification of the case just 15 days before the original hearing on 31 May and it immediately submitted its objections with UEFA.
Mallia explained that the defence also notified UEFA that Sammut did not have the financial means to take witnesses to Geneva and the defence requested a translation of some of the documents, which were in German, but UEFA did not reply.
However, he added that UEFA informed the defence that "witnesses will probably not be heard." Moreover, Mallia explained that UEFA told the defence that although the defendant was invited to testify, he was not obliged to and a ruling could be given in his absence.
"What kind of justice is this?" Mallia asked.
He also gave out the list of witnesses the defence team wanted to present. These include the MFA's CEO Bjorn Vassallo, former Malta national coach Dusan Fitzel, Sammut's unnamed roommate in Oslo, and representatives from Sammut's bank, the Police and Interpol.
Lawyer Michael Sciriha who was present for the sitting at UEFA's headquarters on Nyon, Switzerland on Friday, said he cross-examined Croatian fraudster Marijo Cvrtak, who came up with the allegations, for almost two hours but Cvrtak could not remember the basic details.
The lawyer said Marijo Cvrtak, the convicted member of a notorious Croatian betting syndicate, who identified the Euro 2008 qualifier between Malta and Norway as a rigged match, was present and produced his evidence.
Cvrtak had testified during his original trial in Bochum that he had met with at least three Malta players at an Oslo hotel to rig the Norway-Malta game.
Sciriha added that Sammut was never identified by name by Cvrtak and the name was suggested to him during the investigations undertaken by UEFA.
The lawyer said Cvrtak had only said that one of the players involved wore glasses and had curly hair while another was short and chubby. Sciriha added that when Sammut challenged the Croat to say when and where the two met, the president presiding the hearing stopped Sammut.
"Cvrtak has a knack of remembering details such as how much he paid for a taxi in Oslo five years ago but could not say at what time and where he met Sammut," Sciriha said.
Mallia said the defence was awaiting UEFA's motivation of the judgment to file an appeal. Should this appeal fail, Sammut is willing to take the case to the Court Arbitration of Sport and to the European Court.
Asked whether the Sammut received the backing of the MFA and whether the association might also be prejudiced against the player, Mallia said "The MFA was absolutely right in initiating investigations and cooperating with UEFA over this case."
He added that the association's investigations show that all the palyers present for the game and the technical staff statwed that there was no wrong-doing in the Norway game.
Mallia also explained that the MFA paid for Sammut and Sciriha's flights to Switzerland. Mallia
News that Valletta FC midfielder Kevin Sammut was one of the three players being charged by UEFA was broken by MaltaToday in June.
The European football governing body found Sammut, better known as 'Il-Viper' guilty of match-fixing during an international qualifier between Malta and Norway in 2008.
Two other players, Kenneth Scicluna of Valletta FC and Stephen Wellman of Qormi FC were acquitted of charges due to lack of evidence. The two players were facing three-year bans.
The Maltese police had started investigating allegations of a fixed match between Norway and Malta last year, when the claims first surfaced during a match-fixing trial in Germany.
Croat Marijo Cvrtak, a convicted member of a notorious Croatian betting syndicate, had identified the Euro 2008 qualifier between Malta and Norway as one of the rigged matches. The match had ended with Malta being beaten by Norway 4-0 in Oslo. Norway had scored three goals in the last 18 minutes and while Wellman and Scicluna had played the full 90 minutes, Sammut had been substituted at half time.
The MFA had also carried out a three-month inquiry, during which more than 30 persons were interviewed. The investigation was detailed in a 600-page dossier that has been passed on to UEFA in March.