HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – More than 90 players and officials implicated in the Asiagate scandal will be banned from football following a judicial inquiry in Zimbabwe into allegations of corruption and match-fixing.
Retired Judge Ahmed Ebrahim, head of the probe team which conducted hearings on the scandal, said on Tuesday it recommended to the Zimbabwe Football Association that 13 players and officials be banned for life and 80 others face bans of six months to 10 years. Eight players were exonerated. The names of the affected players and officials are yet to be announced.
They were accused of accepting money from a betting syndicate to throw matches in Asia from 2007 to 2009.
Zimbabwe lost 2-0 to Jordan, 3-0 to Thailand and 6-0 to Syria in Malaysia in tours arranged by former ZIFA chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya, named as the mastermind in the match-rigging scams.
She appeared in court in February on corruption and fraud charges in a case still pending.
Some players testified in the initial ZIFA probe in 2010 how money changed hands in dressing rooms at matches linked to betting agents of Wilson Raj Perumal, a Singaporean who is in jail in Europe for match-fixing.
It is alleged the Zimbabwean team received over $1 million from Perumal to throw a game.
Ebrahim said most of the players who were ''young, innocent and uneducated'' were dragged into the scandal, ''used and manipulated'' by Perumal and unnamed ZIFA officials.
''Some officials and players will undoubtedly have their football futures ruined by these greedy, despicable, ruthless and unfeeling miscreants,'' Ebrahim said. ''It is doubtful if these people will ever even have the slightest thought of recompensing these young football players.''
Ebrahim said he believed Perumal was introduced to the Zimbabwe national team by ''some existing ZIFA hierarchy'' he did not name several years ago, and posed as a ZIFA agent so he could ''manipulate match-fixing in whichever manner he so wished.''
It was alleged in ZIFA's 2010 report that Rushwaya used feared secret agents connected to the country's longtime ruler President Robert Mugabe to manipulate players and coaches on the Asian tours.
''There is little doubt that some of the players were being manipulated into something the majority were not fully aware of, and as a result, will have to suffer the long-term consequences, albeit through ignorance on their part,'' Ebrahim said.
During the course of the year-long probe 44 players were cleared of any wrongdoing but on Tuesday Ebrahim said at the completion of the investigation it has emerged that some of the players whose suspensions were lifted will be banned again.
He said his investigation unearthed ''the tip of the iceberg'' as there was evidence that a lot more went on than was revealed in testimony.
Official records of the Asian tours and fees paid to the players and officials had disappeared from the ZIFA offices, which made it difficult to ascertain what really transpired, Ebrahim said. Money earned from the trips was never deposited into the national body's coffers.
''The exact intricate details of how the Zimbabwe teams became involved with a match-fixing and betting syndicate organized by a man known to those close to him as Raj, involved in the birth of this destructive and illegal activity, may never be known,'' he said