Judge overturns not-guilty sentence for two Malta footballers accused of match fixing

The acquittal on match fixing charges of two former U-21 Maltese national football team players has been overturned on appeal

Emanuel Briffa and Kyle Cesare were found guilty of match fixing by the court of appeal
Emanuel Briffa and Kyle Cesare were found guilty of match fixing by the court of appeal

Kyle Cesare, 22, and Emanuel Briffa, 23, who last month were hit by a life ban issued by UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Board, had originally been cleared of association for the purpose of committing a crime and of bribery of players by a court in Malta.

The pair had been charged after a teammate turned whistleblower had alleged they had been bribed to fix the Malta-Montenegro European championship qualifier match played on 23 March 2016.

A court of magistrates had cleared the two footballers of the charges in August 2016, ruling that the young players were immature and that their judgment had been clouded by peer and social pressure.

Cesare and Briffa had been declared not guilty because they had acted under "an extraneous force which they could not resist".

But Judge Giovanni Grixti, presiding the Court of Appeal, observed that there was no evidence to support the first court’s conclusion, pointing out that even the accused’s lawyers had not taken up this line of defence.

The Court said it failed to understand how the Magistrates’ Court could have safely reached its conclusion when "evidence, even if indicative, was unequivocal and pointed in one direction.”

The two players had not reported the approach to the authorities, rather had held two other meetings and had formulated a plan to lose the match.

It was this plan that the court felt was sufficient to constitute the crucial element of the offence, which the first court had said was missing, the judge observed.

In view of this, the Attorney General’s appeal was upheld, and the earlier judgment revoked. The judge declared the two footballers guilty of the charges, handing them two-year conditional discharges as they are first-time offenders.