Non-league football was match-fixing target for plotters, trial jury told

Hakeem Adelakun is accused of conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery.
Hakeem Adelakun is accused of conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery.
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Footballers and Far Eastern businessmen conspired to fix matches and maximise their returns by betting on “Goldilocks scenario” non-league fixtures, a court heard.

Non-league players Michael Boateng and Hakeem Adelakun, both 22, together with 24-year-old Moses Swaibu, are each accused of conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery.

The three appeared at Birmingham Crown Court alongside Chann Sankaran, 33, and Krishna Ganeshan, 43, over an allegation they all took part in a conspiracy to alter the results of games.

Robert Davies, prosecuting, said Sankaran and Ganeshan were “central figures” in the alleged conspiracy, while the other three men were their “willing recruits”.

He said the men had come to the UK from Singapore intending to target non-league conference football competitions, which he described as a match-fixer’s “Goldilocks scenario”.

Explaining the term, Mr Davies said it was leagues such as the Conference Premier, Conference South and Conference North where “investors use the minimum level of bribe to get the maximum betting return”.

“In lower divisions, the players get paid a lot less than the footballers in the Premier League, Division One and even (Divison) Two,” he added. “There’s far less scrutiny of what occurs in those matches.”

He said betting was popular on games, “especially in the Asian market, Singapore, for example”.

The alleged offences were brought to light by an undercover investigation into football corruption, which was later taken over by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The jury was told the investigators, using false names, developed a relationship with Sankaran. He introduced them to a middleman – who cannot be named for legal reasons – who made the introductions to Boateng, Adelakun and Swaibu.

Reading text messages between Sanakran and the middleman, Mr Davies said it was the prosecution’s belief the men were “negotiating fees” over the match-fixing.

In one such message, Sankaran is alleged to have written: “My boss said for the players he can pay 20,000 euros (£16,300) and for you, 5,000 euros (£4,075) because there’s only five players.”

The jury heard a clandestine recording of a conversation between Sankaran and an undercover NCA officer, referred to as Ed, who was posing as a financier with £60,000 which took place at the Great Northern Warehouse in Manchester on November 21.

Asking what teams Sankaran had under his control, he replied: “One is Bromley and one is Whitehawk.”

The undercover officer said: “I’ve never heard of them, can you even get a bet on them? I thought it was going to be Halifax – I’m not being funny, but I don’t think you can get £60,000 worth of bets on those teams.”

Sankaran’s response was: “Yes you can, I’ve done this before.” Boateng and Thornton have been sacked by Brighton-based Whitehawk FC. All the men deny the charges against them.