Pembroke FC manager charged with bribery

Magistrate Joseph Mifsud describes match fixing as ‘cancer at the heart of football’

A court has described match fixing as “a cancer at the heart of football,” as a team manager of local Premier Football club Pembroke FC was remanded in custody on charges of match fixing earlier this afternoon.

Uchenna Anyanwu, 30, a naturalised Maltese citizen living in Birkirkara was accused of conspiracy to commit an offence under the prevention of corruption in Sports Act, offering a player of the Mosta Football Club or an official or organiser a bribe and complicity in the offence.

The charges come less than 24 hours after Pembroke trounced Mosta FC 5-0 in a Premier league match.

Police Inspectors Elton Taliana and Robert Vella, prosecuting, requested the court impose an asset freeze on the accused, in terms of money laundering legislation.

Inspector Vella told presiding Magistrate Joseph Mifsud that the accused “could be a member of a criminal organisation,” as police investigations had uncovered that the accused's sister works in a Nigerian bank.

There was a risk that the proceeds of any crime could be transferred to the African country, he said.

Anyanwu's defence counsel, lawyers David Camilleri and Joseph Gatt, argued that the man had not been charged with money laundering, but complicity in match-fixing.

The source of his income is not in question, argued the defence.

The court, however, upheld the request.

Bail was strongly objected to by the prosecution, Inspector Vella arguing that “this crime is killing Maltese football nowadays.”

Witnesses who are “very close to the accused” some of whom live with him, were also yet to testify.

Camilleri argued that the Nigerian-born accused is a Maltese citizen, married to a Maltese woman, with whom he has a growing family.

Anyanwu had been involved in football for as long as he has been in Malta, said the lawyer, submitting that the court could impose conditions to prevent the subornation of witnesses.

The court observed that match-fixing “is a public interest issue”, “as it jeopardises the integrity of the competitions, damages the social, educational and cultural values reflected by sports and economic roles of the sport.”

The magistrate denied bail until witnesses had testified. “It's about the fans of the teams involved,” Mifsud said.

“The families who follow the fortunes of their teams with passion, loyalty and devotion. Match fixing betrays the trust, all that confidence and it's like a cancer at the heart of football.”