Four Maltese players have been given life bans after being found guilty of match-fixing, the Malta FA announced on Tuesday.
Three of the players - Gaetan Spiteri, Julian Briffa and Jermain Brincat - are on the books of top-flight clubs in Malta while Chris Brincat, the brother of Jermain, is a futsal player who has turned out for Malta's national futsal team.
Spiteri, who had spent his entire career with hometown club Hamrun Spartans before joining rivals Qormi on loan last year, has been sanctioned after being found guilty of colluding with Briffa to offer a bribe to a Sliema Wanderers player before a match against Hamrun in February last year.
No disciplinary action was taken against the Sliema player as investigations revealed that he had rejected the overtures of Briffa, a former Sliema player, and Spiteri. The match in question ended 1-1.
"Players (who are implicated in match-fixing) should not be allowed to play football anymore... This is killing the game and the players must shoulder the responsibility"
UEFA President Michel Platini
A life ban was also given to Briffa but the Malta FA prosecuting officer is recommending a reduced sentence for the defender on the grounds that he co-operated fully with the investigators.
The recommendation will be discussed at the Malta FA's next annual general meeting later this year.
Jermain Brincat, who began this season with Maltese Premier League club Floriana, and his brother Chris, a Floriana futsal player, were both handed a life ban for their involvement in an attempt to fix the result of a Division One (second tier) match last September.
Media reports said the case came to light after the player who had been approached to throw the match contacted the authorities.
The players can appeal against their bans.
The latest match-fixing cases have cast a pall over Maltese football, which is still coming to terms with former Malta midfielder Kevin Sammut being handed a life ban by UEFA late last year after he was found guilty of helping to fix the Euro 2008 qualifier between Norway and Malta.
Sammut, who has always maintained his innocence, is appealing against the sentence at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
During a visit to Malta in March last year, UEFA president Michel Platini stated that players found guilty of match-fixing should be banned for life.
"Players (who are implicated in match-fixing) should not be allowed to play football anymore," Platini said.
"This is killing the game and the players must shoulder the responsibility."
Ding on bail
Meanwhile, in other match-fixing news, a Singapore businessman accused of bribing three Lebanese soccer match officials with prostitutes has been released on bail after he entered a not guilty plea in court on Tuesday.
Businessman Eric Ding Si Yang, who once worked for the local New Paper tabloid as a football tipster, will contest the three corruption charges that had been filed against him, his lawyer Thong Chee Kun told reporters.
Bail was set at $121,000 and Ding will appear in court again on April 18.
Ding left court on Tuesday wearing sunglasses and a shiny long sleeved green t-shirt accompanied by six men and a woman.
He shook hands with a reporter from the New Paper before leaving in a black car.
Ding's release on bail comes one day before a hearing in which FIFA-recognised referee Ali Sabbagh and assistants Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb are expected to enter their pleas and request bail. The Lebanese officials each face one charge of 'corruptly receiving gratification... to fix a football match.'
The three officials had arrived in Singapore last week to take charge of the AFC Cup match between local side Tampines Rovers and East Bengal of India, but were hastily replaced hours before kick off by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
They are currently being held in separate cells, with the prosecution arguing against bail at an earlier hearing on Friday for fear they were part of a syndicated operation.
The officials face a maximum fine of $80,670 and a five-year prison term if found guilty. Ding faces the same punishment on each charge.