Investigation into alleged fixing of Levante-Real Zaragoza game dropped
A long-running investigation into a potential fix in a La Liga game between Real Zaragoza and Levante in April 2011 has been shelved due to a lack of evidence to demonstrate that a crime took place.
Spain's anti-corruption authorities had maintained that Zaragoza's 2-1 win at Levante's Ciutat de Valencia stadium, which brought three points that saved the visitors from relegation that season, had been agreed in advance.
The official complaint filed by prosecutors in December 2014 named 42 players, coaches and directors from across the two clubs, and claimed a total of €965,000 had changed hands, with bank records showing players on both sides being heavily involved.
However, after reviewing the evidence and hearing testimonies from witnesses including La Liga president Javier Tebas, match referee David Fernandez Borbalan, Atletico Madrid captain Gabi and Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera -- both former Zaragoza players -- judge Isabel Rodriguez has found that "the offence under investigation was not sufficiently demonstrated."
The official court decision, published by El Periodico de Aragon, found that money had been deposited by Zaragoza in the bank accounts of their players and later withdrawn by them in cash, but it could not be proven that it was then received by the Levante players.
"What was the destination of those almost million euros transferred to the accounts of the [Zaragoza] players, sporting director and coach, which has been accepted by the club's administrators?" judge Rodriguez wrote.
"And what did they do with this money once it had been withdrawn in cash from their accounts? The response must be that the only thing which has been confirmed is that they received it, but not that it was then received by the Levante players."
After giving evidence to judge Rodriguez in January 2016, La Liga chief Tebas told reporters outside the court in Valencia that he was personally sure Levante players had received money in exchange for throwing the game, and he hoped the judge would accept that a criminal offence had taken place.
"So there is either a crime of match-fixing, or one of fraud," Tebas said. "In either case there is something illegal."
However, judge Rodriguez's decision says that it had not been proven that a fix had taken place, with none of the witnesses having admitted to throwing the game.
The judgement also says that the referee at the time had seen nothing unusual about the match, "which had no passive or suspicious behaviour from the players, and was an intense game with lots of yellow cards."
The decision to shelve the case can now be appealed within five days by either the anti-corruption authority or by La Liga itself .
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan