Aziz Yildrim, one of Turkey's richest and most powerful men, is on trial for his role in a match-fixing scandal that has shaken Turkish soccer and society to its core. Several players, coaches and prominent figures — none bigger than Yildrim — face the prospect of lengthy prison sentences, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Yildrim is at the center of it all. He is president of Turkey's richest and most decorated club, Istanbul's Fenerbache. He stands accused of organizing and leading a crime ring that conspired to fix 19 games during the 2010-11 season. Fenerbache went undefeated in the second half of last season, edging Trabzonspor for the Super League title on goal difference.
The indictment accuses him (and others) of bribing rival players to play poorly, or miss games. It says referees were bribed, or sometimes coerced, to make decisions that would influence the outcome of games.
A nine-month probe led to the arrests of Yildrim and 13 others associated with the club last summer. Among them were players, coaches and even an interpreter. Yildrim was detained and remains incarcerated. He faces up to 72 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
The investigation showed the scandal was not confined to one club. Other suspects include players and managers from other major clubs. Besiktas, winner of the Turkish Cup, was forced to hand back the trophy because of its role in the scandal.
The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) barred Fenerbache from this season's UEFA Champions League. The scandal also caused TFF president Mehmet Ali Aydinlar to step down in December.
Thumbnail photo via Flickr/canercan
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