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Hearings begin in soccer bribery case

THE SPECIAL Court in Pezinok started hearings on February 16 in the case of Vladimír Wänke, a former high official in the Slovak Football Association (SFZ) who faces accusations of nine cases of bribery. During the first session, Wänke pleaded innocent to all the charges, the Sme daily wrote.

THE SPECIAL Court in Pezinok started hearings on February 16 in the case of Vladimír Wänke, a former high official in the Slovak Football Association (SFZ) who faces accusations of nine cases of bribery. During the first session, Wänke pleaded innocent to all the charges, the Sme daily wrote.

The evidence presented by the prosecutor included a video from March 10, 2007, showing Wänke talking about ‘stamps’ with Stanislav Szabo, the president of the Eldus Močenok football club who acted as an agent for the police. Szabo reportedly offered Wänke Sk10,000 (which they called ‘stamps’) for speeding up the procedure of moving a player from one club to another.

Wänke was arrested when he accepted the alleged bribe. Wänke defended himself by saying that the envelope with the money was given to him without him being aware of it, the ČTK newswire reported. Wänke repeated to the court that he did not accept the bribe; that he did not personally take the envelope with the money; and that he was not even aware of its content.

“Mr Szabo must have put it on the table,” he said.

Wänke is accused of taking bribes five times from Szabo, of Sk5,000 (€165.97) each time, for speeding up the process of issuing registration cards for football players.

He also reportedly once accepted two boxes of wine, another time a crate of wine and also 15 kilograms of apples. According to ČTK, the bribes were made to influence the transfer of players from Austrian, Czech, Vietnamese and Slovak football clubs.

Wänke is the first high-level sports official to stand trial in the Special Court, which usually handles corruption cases involving politicians and cases of organised crime. Until now, the corruption cases have mostly involved regional politicians, judges and doctors.

Wänke was fired from SFZ after the allegations of bribery came to light and he is now retired. If found guilty, he can be sentenced to a maximum of 8 years in prison.

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