Football Referees, Officials Appear in Court for Match-fixing

Nine football referees and officials went on trial in the soccer-obsessed nation Tuesday accused of taking and giving bribes to fix matches, a court official said.

The defendants in the Hanoi people's court trial, which is scheduled to last two days, include seven referees, the deputy coach of a local club and a former director of the southern Can Tho province sports department.

"The nine defendants will be prosecuted for taking and giving bribes, or for acting as middlemen between teams in several negative incidents in V-League competitions in recent years," a court official earlier told the press.

According to the prosecutors' indictment, "the referees abused their tasks ... to have unjustifiable relations with football teams, accepting to help some teams, then receiving their bribes."

The referees, including FIFA-ranked Truong The Toan and Le Van Tu, were accused of accepting hundreds of millions of dong (tens of thousands of dollars) in the 2004-2005 V-League seasons to be less tough on Dong A and Can Tho clubs.

If found guilty, the referees and officials face a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail.

Two former footballers are now serving jail terms of three and four years after they were found guilty in January of fixing an under-23 match against Myanmar at the 2005 Southeast Asian Games, in return for cash.

Six young players in the same scam were given suspended prison sentences.

Khoi Nguyen

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