A new bubble in the seemingly never ending match fixing scandal has exploded yesterday in the heart of the evening, when people return home from work and have their dinner.
The news broke when Sillamäe Kalev website (click to enlarge above picture) announced that one of their players, Maksim Paponov, had been suspended by the Estonian FA (hence EJL) upon breaching paragraphs 4.3.3 and 4.3.16 of the EJL code of conduct. The suspension has been provided for till the end of 2014. Which means Paponov’s Premium Liiga season has basically come to an end.
The mentioned paragraphs deal with the act of or the simple attempt of fixing the score of a game or the final result of a competition in a way to obtain any monetary (or not) advantage for oneself or others. The simple knowledge of these facts is deemed as involvement if the individual(s) fails to communicate to the EJL an ongoing attempt of match fixing.
The club’s website did not immediately specify in relation to which events the suspension was decided.
Thoughts immediately ran to last summer scandal, when Paponov was playing in Kalev Tallinn. However, a questionable red card collected in the dying minutes of last weekend Sillamäe-Flora clash had risen more than an eyebrow.
It was just a matter of minutes as the EJL issued an official statement in which added two more names to the shortlist.
One was already notorious for a despicable attempt to endangering someone’s else health on the pitch (see the shocking video) which brought him to a long suspension last season: Yaroslav Dmitriev from second tier club FC Puuma. Dmitriev received a life ban from any football activity. As happened in the past, the ban is likely to be extended worldwide by FIFA authorities.
The other name was a huge blow: 2013 Champion with Levadia, central defender Aleksei Jahhimovitś, already Estonian Champion with Flora in 2010 and 2011.
Which match fixing attempt are we talking about?
The suspension comes for an attempt of match fixing a youth tournament game, Russia-Estonia (1-0 was the FT score) at the Kubok Sodruźestva, the Commonwealth Cup (a competition held mostly among former USSR republics) in 2012.
At that time, Jahhimovitś, now 24 years old, was in the U-21 squad that travelled the Russian Federation.
The head coach of the U-21 was till German coach Frank Bernhardt and hegave a start to the following line-up (in brackets the present-day club):
Toom (Flora); Veis (Paide Linnameeskond) Reintam (Nõmme Kalju), Artjunin (Levadia) Kaldoja (Paide) Laabus (Tammeka) Paponov (Sillamäe) Liivamägi (suspended for life after last Summer scandal), Podholjuzin (Levadia) Taar (Wisla Plock, POL) Kase (Flora).
Jahhimovitś did not belong to the starting XI as he was sent on the pitch by Bernhardt only on 71’ when he replaced Reio Laabus.
Russia was already leading 1-0.
At the final whistle, Bernhardt declared: ‘Russian team was dominating this match but in Russia football is the favorite kind of sport. We had the aim to win and we tried to get it. It is difficult to play against Russia when you have problems with forwards. We could not gather all the players to National team and it led us to the defeat. Today our central defender (Martin Kase – edit) played as forward.’
Apparently, the former U-21 coach, did not suspect two of his players were trying to fix the game. Especially considering one of them entered the pitch 20 minutes to time.
How Paponov and Jahhimovitś names surfaced more than two years after? The ‘Golova Mob’
We are dealing with a sub-chapter of a more extensive investigation that has reached the criminal proceeding. It has surfaced through pages of Skype conversations and phone-calls transcripts contained in a 1,400 pages document issued by the Harju County criminal court and acquired by journalist Dannar Leitma, at Estonian weekly Eesti Ekspress.
We will call the main investigation as the ‘Golova Mob’.
The ‘Golova Mob’ refers to Valeri ‘Golova’ Mihhailov, a 48-year-old Eastern Estonia criminal behind the organization of a system aimed at fixing games of the Estonian top-flight. He was the go-between among a certain ‘Sergei’, main financer of the system residing in Moscow, and former Narva Trans goalkeeper, Sergei Ussoltsev.
A long list of players belonged to this system, one of which, Deniss Jõgiste (24-year-old and former Kalev player) has already pleaded guilty together with Mihhailov and Ussoltsev.
Still under trial (the hearings have been held in Tallinn during the past weeks) are: Anton Sereda, all-time Premium Liiga topscorer Maksim Gruznov, Sergei Leontovitś, Aleksandr Tarassenkov, Vitali Gussev, Erik Grigorjev, Aleksandr Kulik and Stanislav Tokarev.
Already found guilty by the sports justice, they all carry a life ban extended by FIFA authorities.
How Paponov and Jahhimovitś are connected with the ‘Golova Mob’?
Everything dates back to the period of the tournament, end of January 2012.
Jahhimovitś was still a Flora player (he moved to Levadia in February 2013). Paponov had been released by Sillamäe Kalev in the Summer of 2012 and was still unemployed before getting onboard at Kalev Tallinn in the same January.
As revealed by Eesti Ekspress, there was a Skype conversation between Jahhimovitś and one of the ‘Golova Mob’, Anton Sereda.
Sereda reported later to ‘Sergei’: ‘Yesterday I have chatted with some U-21 internationals. I prepared them. (It was) hard’.
Why it was? Jahhimovitś is a young footballer, not used to certain practices. ‘This is not real, everyone sits there and watch’ afraid the match fixing attempt might be uncovered. Worries that found Sereda very careless: ‘(if you prefer) go to watch from a buggyhole!’
What was the object of the matchfixing?
According to the Skype conversation between Sereda and ‘Sergei’, the object was the goal difference of the Russia-Estonia game ‘It’s important they are many (goals –edit)’ told ‘Sergei’ to reassure Sereda. ‘Initially 2, if not 3’ replied Sereda.
We can imagine the disappointment when at final time, Russia got better of Estonia with a mere 1-0 (video fragments of that game below).
Sereda pronounces one important sentence: ‘the most important thing is that all would belong to the starting XI’ and upon being asked the last names of the players, he clearly replied with Paponov and Jahhimovitś names.
How much money was promised?
According to the document, we talk about 4,000€ for each player involved in the fixing. The figure is revealed by Sereda himself to Paponov before the game. ‘Decide with Aleksei (Jahhimovitś) whether (to involve) Artjom or Andrei. You need to be three, in two it will be quite hard’ suggests Sereda hinting at other two players belonging to the Bernhardt U-21 squad: Artjom Artjunin and Andre Veis.
What is the involvement of Artjunin and Veis?
According to further conversations revealed by Eesti Ekspress, Artjunin refused to take part into the fixing, said Paponov to Sereda. Whereas, Sereda excluded a priori to talk to Veis fearing he might be a spy and reveal what was going on.
In the light of this, Artjom Artjunin, if proved to have been asked by Jahhimovitś to take part into the fix, he would be feasible to be disqualified based on the above-mentioned 4.3.16 paragraph. The paragraph puts people failing to inform the football authorities of an ongoing attempt on the same level as the fixers.This is probably what the Estonian FA is investigating at the moment.
Are there many more names connected with the match-fixing attempt?
Sereda suggested to involve Albert Taar (present day footballer at Polish side Wisla Plock) on the basis of his origin: Taar, as Jahhimovitś, is from Sillamäe city.
Sereda takes the enrolment of the former Narva Trans midfielder as a sure thing considering he later on reported back to ‘Sergei’ they would have been in three: Jahhimovitś, Paponov and Taar.
According to the conversations, Taar was ‘ready for the job’, reports Eesti Ekspress. Additionally, also the name of Maksim Podholjuzin (Levadia’s full-back) was made).
Except Jahhimovitś, the other three all belonged to the above-mentioned started XI fielded by Bernhardt.
The agreement and the disappointing output
The players on the pitch should have given all their best in order for Russia to already win 2-0 in the first half. An attempt that probably did not go as planned as Estonia held Russia on 0-0 at HT whistle.
Paponov managed to collect a yellow card on 21’ and Bernhardt substituted him in the interval with Sander Sinilaid.
At the end of the game, Sereda expects an explanation from Jahhimovitś: ‘it was hard. They just controlled the ball in their back lines and there wasn’t any dangerous chance (brought to us –edit)’
Comments and reactions
Levadia terminated Jahhimovitś contract, even if the events date back to a time when the player was not still part of the Tallinn’s club.
Additionally, Levadia press officer, Indrek Petersoo, told clearly to Eesti Ekspress that the club has no complaint towards Jahhimovitś performance: ‘in the last year he has really started to play well’. Jahhimovitś last game was in Narva against Trans (0-0). He scored a winning goal a week earlier with a header on corner kick situation. He leaves the club with 43 games played, 2 goals, 8 yellow cards and 1 red card collected.
Marko Kristal, Levadia’s gaffer, is shocked: ‘I don’t understand and don’t tolerate people who deal with match fixing!’ Adding the scandal has nothing to do with Levadia successful 2013 season. His main worry is now to find a replacement at the centre of the defence.
The EJL, through his chairman Aivar Pohlak’s words, added that there are ten more names under investigations (and some of them might be the ones revealed by Eesti Ekspress): ‘we still need time to put together the whole picture, the plan is to end the investigation in the second half of June’. A key period for Estonian football as the European campaign approaches and the draw of the qualifiers takes place (23rd of June). By that time, Levadia might have to make go with a thin squad for their Champions League qualifier in July if they will not be able to sign any player in summer transfer window.
Mihkel Uiboleht, EJL press officer, added speaking to public TV, ETV: 'Dmitriev was suspended for facts occurred in 2011 when the player belonged to FC Ajax Lasnamäe' clarified the Estonian FA press officer confirming that events related to the other 10 individuals will certainly reach the disciplinary commission.
RdS has reached the author of the article, Dannar Leitma, to ask some questions about his finding.
As this is part of a bigger proceeding against what I called the 'Golova Mob', what moved you to think there might be some PL players involved in this and go for the 1,400-page thick document?
I did not know. I just wanted to be sure what is in Ussoltsev's materials. There might have been something, but there is always possibility that there isn't anything at all. So I just checked all this 1400 pages and made pictures out of it, when I suddenly discovered the names of Jahhimovits and Paponov.
Considering we talk about Artjunin being informed about the match fixing attempt but refusing to take part into, it's my understanding that under paragraph 4.3.16, he would also risk a suspension as he failed to inform the football authorities. What is your opinion about it? Does he risk anything?
It is up to the FA to decide. We can't be even sure that Artjunin was really approached. There is always a possibility, that Jahhimovtš just wanted to show off with many names. However, if it is proved that he did not inform the FA, then I think that there is some punishment coming for him. But as I said, it is up to the FA to find out and decide.
You made a huge work with those 1,400 pages. Are there any other names jumping to the eyes, both of players and clubs? Do we have to fear that Premium Liiga squads as they exist will be beheaded? What can you share?
Yes, there are some players which are not mentioned in my story. There is no 100% proof, but bragging by Ussoltsev , Gruznov or Sereda that in some games this and that player has been paid.
Considering the FA is planning to reveal all the investigations in the second half of June, I am quite sure there will be a lot of pressure to reveal those names earlier. What is your plan? Shall we expect a new article with all the other stories or there's an agreement with the FA to keep those secret until the football justice will have done its work?
I'm not planning to make new articles at the moment. I gave the documents to my colleagues in Eesti Päevaleht (Eesti Ekspress belongs to the same group – edit) and maybe they are writing something new.
RdS will keep you posted with the latest development on this new chapter.