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Three confess roles in international soccer match-fixing syndicate

MELBOURNE -- A Malaysian man and two English football players have admitted to fixing matches in Melbourne as part of an international syndicate.

Defender Reiss Noel and goalkeeper Joe Woolley, both 24, were convicted and fined on Friday after they admitted helping to fix games while playing for the Southern Stars in the semi-professional Victorian Premier League.

Alleged ring organizer Segaran Gsubramaniam, 45, of Malaysia, pleaded guilty to a single charge of engaging in conduct that corrupts or could corrupt the outcome of a betting event.

Gsubramaniam will also face a hearing in April over accusations he conspired to fix five Southern Stars games between July and September of this year.

The match-fixing ring was made public in September when Football Federation Australia issued a statement saying several players from the Southern Stars had been arrested after a police investigation.

Prosecutor Peter Rose told the Melbourne Magistrates Court that Woolley and Noel were skilled players who had manipulated the results of games according to instruction.

“They were able to change the results of the games with some ease,” he said, adding that both players made full admissions about their conduct and did not make much money out of the scheme.

Defense lawyer Anthony Brand said the two players were “expendable” parts of the syndicate's “hit-and-run” operation in Australia.

Brand said the scheme was well-orchestrated but “clumsy” in its execution, with people seen to be yelling suspicious instructions from the sidelines during Southern Stars matches.

He told the court the instructions to fix matches would be passed through team manager Zia Younan.

Brand said Noel and Woolley were ashamed and embarrassed about their conduct.

“They appreciate that their careers in soccer are completely finished,” he said.

Magistrate Jack Vandersteen fined Woolley 1,200 Australian dollars (US$1,090) for his part in fixing three matches, while Noel received a AU$2,000 (US$1,800) fine for helping to fix four games.

Vandersteen said the offending was serious, but conceded the two men had no idea about the wider implications of their conduct.

Younan, 36, and English Southern Stars players David Obaze, 23, and Nicholas McKoy, 27, have also been charged with match-fixing offenses and will appear in court on Dec. 20.

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