UEFA launches investigation into Armenian allegations of bribery

NYON, Switzerland (AP) – European soccer’s governing body announced yesterday the launch of a formal investigation into allegations that Greek officials had attempted to bribe Armenia to throw a crucial Euro 2004 qualifier last weekend. UEFA said it had appointed a disciplinary investigator to examine claims made by Ruben Hayrapetyan, president of the Football Federation of Armenia, to the UEFA match delegate that approaches were made to Armenia to fix the game in favor of Greece. «The inspector has been asked to look at all aspects of the allegations, including the way in which the allegations were made,» UEFA spokesman Mike Lee said in a statement. «Once the inspection is complete, UEFA will decide what and any future steps are needed.» The inspector is expected to report back ahead of the final series of qualifying matches on 11 October. Greece scraped through with a 1-0 victory in last Saturday’s match to stay atop the Group 6 standings. On Sunday, the Armenian Soccer Federation said that some of its players had received telephone calls from unidentified people offering them money to allow the Greeks to win. The accusations appear to focus on Ervand Sukiasian, a former national team player now living in Greece, and the president of the Greek Soccer Federation, Vassilis Gagatsis. Suren Bagdasarian, an Armenian federation spokesman, said the manager of Armenia’s national under-21 team received a call from Sukiasian, who allegedly claimed that he had been «ordered» by the president of the Greek federation to offer money for an Armenian loss. The under-21 team manager, Karen Arutunian, told Hayrapetyan about the call. Hayrapetyan then brought team officials to the federation office and made a tape-recorded call to Sukiasian in which the former player offered US$1 million for a Greek win, Bagdasarian said. Sukiasian, who works in Greece as an agent of Armenian players, has denied taking part in any bribe plots or any links to Gagatsis. He has claimed the bribery allegations are an attempt to ruin his reputation. The Greek Soccer Federation also slammed the accusations as «shameless lies and a product of fantasy.» By beating Armenia, the Greek squad took a major step toward automatic qualification in the finals of the European Championships in Portugal next year. It would be the first time Greece reached the finals since 1980. With one game left against Northern Ireland, Greece leads Group 6 with 15 points, four ahead of favored Spain. The Spaniards hosted third-placed Ukraine late last night and travel to Armenia for their last game on October 11. Greece also hosts Northern Ireland on October 11. Northern Ireland is bottom of the group, while Armenia is second-to-last.

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