Msida president stays on despite ‘Dirty Soccer’ charges

While brother Adrian Farrugia resigned from the post of Mosta FC manager, Robert Farrugia stayed on as president of Msida St Joseph despite the running court case against him as financier of an illegal betting syndicate

Robert Farrugia in a photo from the Msida St Joseph FC Facebook page
Robert Farrugia in a photo from the Msida St Joseph FC Facebook page

The Malta Football Association has yet to take any action over the identification of a Maltese club president in an Italian sting on an international betting syndicate. 

Four years after their identification as financiers of an illegal football betting syndicate, the case against two Maltese men continues this week in Italy. 

Yet, despite being charged in the Operation Dirty Soccer sting, Robert Farrugia, 49, is still president of Msida St Joseph. His brother Adrian Farrugia, 38, had resigned from the post of Mosta FC team manager at the time. 

Robert Farrugia yesterday insisted he was never notified by the Italian courts before hanging up on MaltaToday. Asked whether he ever consulted a lawyer as to what the charges might mean for him, Farrugia said: “I was never even interested,” and hung up the line. 

The two brothers were reportedly part of a syndicate of 50 men and women, many of them arrested by Italian police from Catanzaro, including Italian nationals who coached or served in the administration of Maltese club football. 

One of them was Felice Bellini, formerly a sporting director at Vittoriosa Stars FC, and the team’s former coach, Arturo Di Napoli. 

And yet, while both Bellini and Di Napoli are said to have been blacklisted by the MFA, no similar action has been taken against the Farrugias. 

An MFA source, however, said that the association had its hands tied since the matches in question did not concern the Maltese football league. The source said that the Italian national association FIGC had sent the MFA their own report on the allegations, but there was also the risk that without any definitive court decree or sentencing, the MFA would not take any action. 

Transcripts from the Italian sting on an international network of illegal betting on Italy’s Serie D and Lega Pro (fourth and third division respectively) football leagues, had revealed a conversation between Robert Farrugia and Bellini, over tens of thousands in euros lost on a low-level match. 

Farrugia is heard telling Bellini that his brother Adrian was being threatened with his life by Chinese gamblers who had lost €52,000. 

The bet was played on a low-level match between Aversa Normanna and Barletta, with Robert Farrugia heard complaining that the reason for the unexpected 0-1 Barletta win was the fault of team coach Ninni Corda – who was also arrested in Operation Dirty Soccer. 

Farrugia is heard blaming Corda, demanding Bellini to make the coach refund the €52,000 lost on the bet. He is heard saying that Chinese gamblers had lost €52,000 and his brother was “risking it big” because of the loss. 

Bellini had arrived in Malta in 2013 as part of a collaboration agreement to bring Italian players to Qormi United. He then moved to First Division club Vittoriosa Stars as director-general, where his compatriot and former Napoli and Inter striker Arturo di Napoli served as head coach. 

Operation Dirty Soccer was the umpteenth earthquake in Italian football. The syndicate of people traditionally beyond suspicion – football players, club presidents and managers, and businessmen from Serbia, Malta, China, Kazakhstan, Russia and Italy – are accused of betting on low-tier games of the Italian Serie D, Lega pro (formerly Serie C), and second division Serie B games. 

The investigation, in fact, started from a police interest in ‘Ndrangheta captain Pietro Iannazzo, who staked bets on the Neapolis football club, which eventually led police to the international syndicate. 

The Catanzaro special mobile unit stumbled on a multi-million euro network of illegal betting where teams were designated to lose, so that they could reap the most out of football bets. 

Investigators suspect 28 matches from the ongoing season were rigged and the suspected financiers being investigated include Serbian, Maltese and Albanian nationals. Police across Italy rounded up 27 team presidents and managers, 17 players, five coaches, and one police officer, and raided club offices.

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