By Nick Harris
8 September 2010
The world No1 snooker player John Higgins will be free to resume his playing career in November after being cleared today of the most serious charges laid against him relating to allegations of match-fixing.
Two charges were dropped: 1) agreeing or offering to accept a bribe, bribes or other reward to fix or otherwise to influence improperly the result of a tournament or match; 2) agreeing to engage in corrupt or fraudulent conduct.
Higgins has been handed an six-month ban (backdated to May) after admitting to two other charges: 1) intentionally giving the impression to others that they were agreeing to act in breach of the Betting Rules; and 2) failing to disclose promptly to the association full details of an approach or invitation to act in breach of the Betting Rules. He has been fined £75,000.
So on the most serious charges related to fixing, the Scot has been exonerated, after Ian Mill QC accepted Higgins’ explanation of how he came to be in a room in Kiev discussing how to lose frames; the essence of that explanation is that Higgins was duped. Mill ruled: “I have no doubt that the Association was right to conclude that this account by Mr Higgins was a truthful one.”
A WPBSA statement (in full here) said: “Having studied all of the evidence in its entirety, the WPBSA and Sports Resolutions accept that there has been no dishonesty on the part of John Higgins and accordingly the WPBSA has withdrawn the allegations of match fixing against him.”
Higgins’ business partner, Pat Mooney, was found guilty of discussing and planning frame-fixing – done without Higgins’ knowledge, a tribunal hearing ruled, having considered detailed evidence from an extensive investigation – and won’t ever be allowed to play any role in snooker again.
The News of the World alleged on 2 May that Higgins shook hands “on a disgraceful deal to fix a string of high-profile matches after demanding a £300,000 kickback.”
Higgins and Mooney had were filmed in Kiev in April apparently agreeing to a “fix” deal by undercover reporters who successively pretended they were businessmen wanting to stage tournaments, and shady gamblers wanting to bet on them.
Higgins, a three-times world champion, will now return to action. In a long statement (linked here in full), released after the verdict, Higgins said: “If I am guilty of anything it is of naivety and trusting those who, I believed, were working in the best interests of snooker and myself . . . I have been sustained by the love and support of my wife, family and friends. I must also thank my many, many fans from around the world who have encouraged me, backed me and raised my spirits. I make this promise to every single one of them: John Higgins will be back and he’ll be back winning.”
A statement released on behalf of Mooney (in full here) said: “Mr Mooney bitterly regrets being caught up in the News of the World’s entrapment and is unreservedly sorry for the impact that sting has had on snooker and Mr Higgins in particular.”
The News of the World released a statement, linked in full here.