Special Court sends fixing-accused footballers back to custody
Kathmandu, October 27
Special Court today sent the match-fixing accused footballers back to police custody for three more days.
The Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Range produced the five accused players and official before the court for the first time in 14 days since arresting them on October 14. KMPR, who has charged the footballers with treason, brought the accused to the court to add remand duration as the court was closed for festive holidays.
After hearing the arguments from both the sides, the division bench of justices Mohan Raman Bhattarai, Bhupendra Prasad Rai and Pawan Kumar Sharma decided to grant the police with 17-day remand from the date of arrests to record the statements of the accused footballers.
“The court has decided to send the defendants to judicial custody for 17 days for further investigation,” informed a court official. As the footballers were arrested 14 days ago, the KMPR now has three days to record the statement and prepare the case.
Police had arrested national team skipper Sagar Thapa, his deputy Sandip Rai, goalkeeper Ritesh Thapa and former players Anjan KC and Bikash Singh Chhetri on match-fixing charges.
The All Nepal Football Association has suspended them from football-related activities until the final verdict. Police have directed their investigation towards treason for fixing international matches from 2008 to 2014 and receiving hefty amounts in return.
But the players pleaded not guilty today. “We were just accused but the media portrayed us as guilty and we are already punished,” said the suspended skipper Thapa in his first comments since he was arrested along with other four footballers. “We missed that media, which supported us for 15-20 years when we played for the country, the most at this moment.
We are innocent and we will speak out our heart once the case is over,” Thapa added. His deputy, Rai said they were accused of match-fixing and nothing had been proven. “The case is under investigation and we will come to you after the final verdict.”
Advocates Harihar Dahal, Buddhi Katwal, Shambhu Thapa, Prem Bahadur Khadka, Govinda Bandi, Khem Prasad Khatiwada, Kamala Oli, and Prem Bahadur Khadka among others defended the case from the footballers’ side. Advocate Katawal said the case was not related to treason and there was no base to punish the footballers.
“Firstly, this is not the case of treason and secondly there is no law to punish anyone for match fixing even if the players accept of doing so,” said Katwal. “Only football governing bodies and NSC were responsible of taking action against the players in such cases,” he added.
Two days after the arrests of the footballers, the AFC said that the Asian football governing body coordinated with Sportradar Security Services and Nepal Police before taking them in custody. “The process leading to the arrests began when suspicious betting patterns were detected on a number of matches played by the Nepali national team.
A year-long investigation followed, involving matches stretching back to 2008 with further intelligence gathering revealing suspicious financial transactions linked to Nepali nationals.
The intelligence gathered was shared with the Nepali Police and a formal investigation began which has so far resulted in five arrests. The AFC will launch the appropriate disciplinary proceedings in due course,” said the AFC, who has provisionally suspended the players for 30 days.