The Tallinn Circuit Court upheld a previous decision by Harju County Court, ruling that eight former footballers accused by the Prosecutor’s Office should be cleared of charges, although the higher court agreed match fixing was going on.
State prosecutor Piret Paukštys told uudised.err.ee both court levels said match fixing took place in Estonia. “The Circuit Court is of the opinion that the crime is both a criminal case and a misdemeanor offense under Estonian legislation and the situation must be solved to the advantage of the defendants, and prosecuted as a misdemeanor case,” she said, adding the decision will be analyzed by the Prosecutor's Office before any appeal is launched.
What the ruling means is that Estonian laws do not consider match fixing a criminal case, and the men can only be tried as a misdemeanor offense, meaning far lower punishments. The men are likely to receive a lifetime ban from all footballing activities from the Estonian Football Association.
The eight ex-footballers and three other men allegedly earned a total of 108,000 euros for fixing matches.
According to the charge, the syndicate influenced the outcome of a dozen Estonian top-league games, three Europa games, one Estonian Cup game and one game in Lithuania between June 2011 and November of last year.
Five of the eight played for Narva Trans two seasons ago, including Maksim Gruznov, who holds the league's all-time top scorer title with over 300 goals.