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Oct 18, 2013

South Africa: More arrests due

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- A policeman with South Africa's organized crime unit on Friday described the arrest and corruption charges against a football referee as "just the tip of an iceberg" in a second major match-fixing case in the former World Cup host country.

Capt. Paul Ramaloko told The Associated Press his Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation expects to make more arrests in connection with attempts to fix at least one game at a lower-league promotion tournament in 2011. It's a further blow to South Africa's already-damaged football reputation after it agreed with FIFA to investigate separate allegations of fixing in national team friendlies in the immediate buildup to the 2010 World Cup.

Referee Clifford Malgas, a member of the South African Football Association's national refereeing panel, appeared in court in Johannesburg on Thursday and faces charges of corruption and perjury. Malgas is accused of facilitating a bribe to another referee to fix a game at that league promotion tournament. He will be transferred to a Cape Town court for a second hearing next week.

"This is just the tip of an iceberg," Ramaloko said of Malgas' arrest, adding that "the person doing the bribing" was yet to be arrested.

Malgas was initially implicated during the trial of former South Africa assistant coach Phil Setshedi, who was jailed for three years in February for trying to bribe a referee to fix a game at the same tournament two years ago. At the time, South Africa's National Prosecution Authority said it was its first conviction for match-fixing in football.

The initial Setshedi investigation centered on the game between Sivutsa Stars and Baroka in June 2011, which Sivutsa won 1-0 to help it gain promotion to South Africa's second tier. Setshedi was caught in a sting operation when he tried to bribe an undercover policeman posing as a referee.

Ramaloko said the number of counts of corruption against Malgas would only be made public when he appeared at Cape Town Magistrate's Court on Monday, suggesting he may have been involved as a go-between in attempts to fix other games as well. Malgas and other referees gave evidence during Setshedi's trial, when Malgas is now also accused of also lying under oath.

South Africa is already committed to investigating allegations of match manipulation in pre-World Cup friendly games in May 2010, weeks before the country made history as the first African nation to host football's biggest event. The two match-fixing investigations are not linked, Ramaloko said, although his unit, which is known as the Hawks, was investigating both.

FIFA has said there is strong evidence that at least one of the warm-up games played by South Africa's national team in May 2010 was fixed and agreed in April to allow South African President Jacob Zuma to set up a government-led public inquiry into the accusations. No committee to investigate has been announced yet by Zuma.

Although no players are suspected of any fixing and the manipulation is believed to be by referees acting for an illegal Asian betting syndicate, the South African Football Association suspended some of its own officials, including its former president briefly, in the wake of the allegations while it attempted to discover the extent of the corruption and any collusion within SAFA to appoint crooked referees working for illegal betting syndicates.

Neither FIFA nor SAFA have identified the game or games under suspicion, but South Africa's 5-0 win over Guatemala and 2-1 win over Colombia in May 2010 -- weeks before the World Cup -- have long been under suspicion because of the high number of penalties awarded.

The match-fixing allegations, and particularly the suspension of some of its own officials, resulted in South Africa's national team losing its shirt sponsor after German sportswear company Puma said this week it was ending its agreement with SAFA.

"Following match fixing allegations made against SAFA along with inappropriate responses from within the football organization (including the suspension of senior officials), PUMA terminated the contract with immediate effect," Puma said Thursday in a statement. "PUMA abides by a code of ethics in all areas of its business operations and expects its partners to adhere to the same values."

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