November 14, 2012

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- The acquittal of three football players in Switzerland in a match-fixing case was an "own goal by Swiss justice,'' FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Wednesday.

Switzerland's Football Association backed Blatter's criticism, saying the country "desperately needs'' to update its criminal code after the players were cleared by a federal court Tuesday.

The Swiss League players were prosecuted for swindling linked to betting on second-tier matches played in 2009 following an international investigation led from Bochum, Germany.

Goalkeeper Darko Damjanovic, who allegedly recruited players for a Croatian crime syndicate, was suspended indefinitely by the Swiss FA in 2010.

However, a judge acquitted Damjanovic and two others Tuesday, saying there was no obvious victim of bets placed online.

"Own goal by Swiss justice: irritating verdicts of not guilty in context of betting manipulation,'' Blatter wrote on his Twitter account.

Swiss football officials called for a national law against sporting fraud to be passed.

"The Swiss law needs desperately the so-called `criminal fraud' (offense) unless we want to go with decisions like the one from yesterday,'' SFA spokesman Marco von Ah said in an email to The Associated Press.

A draft law could be published next year as Switzerland seeks to catch up with countries which already prohibit match-fixing.

Last week, the federal cabinet approved a report analyzing Swiss laws relating to sports corruption and asked the ministry responsible for sports to make proposals.

Damjanovic was acquitted along with Christian Leite, also a former goalkeeper with FC Gossau, and former FC Thun midfielder David Blumer, who got a two-year ban in 2010.

Swiss media reported that 35-year-old Damjanovic had been nicknamed "Didi Cash'' by the syndicate which was accused in a Bochum court last year of making millions of euros (dollars) betting on fixed matches.

The gang, led by previously convicted fixer Ante Sapina, allegedly bribed referees, players and officials to manipulate more than 200 matches across Europe. They included a World Cup qualifier between Liechtenstein and Finland in 2009, and a Norway vs. Malta qualifier for the 2008 European Championship.

Sapina received a prison sentence of five-and-a-half years.

On Tuesday, the court in Bellinzona awarded Leite and Blumer compensation of 26,000 Swiss francs ($27,500) and 16,500 Swiss francs ($17,500) respectively.

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