The Japan Football Association will wait until Japan’s ongoing Asian Cup campaign has finished before responding to reports that a match-fixing case involving manager Javier Aguirre will go to court, JFA president Kuniya Daini said Thursday.
Spanish media reported on Wednesday that a case filed by anti-corruption prosecutors last month naming Aguirre as one of 41 defendants has been accepted by a Valencia judge, with proceedings set to begin in February.
The case follows an investigation into a 2011 Spanish League match that saw Real Zaragoza — at the time managed by Aguirre — beat Levante 2-1 on the final day of the season to avoid relegation from the first division.
Prosecutors allege that Zaragoza made bank transfers to its own players and officials, who then withdrew the money, totaling $1.2 million, and gave it to Levante’s players as payment to throw the match.
Aguirre — who strongly protested his innocence in a Dec. 27 news conference called to address the claims and has since refused to discuss the matter — is currently in Australia with his Japan team, which is attempting to defend its Asian Cup title and takes on Iraq on Friday in its second game of the tournament. Japan opened its campaign with a 4-0 win over Palestine on Monday.
Daini, who faced criticism for a perceived slow response to the initial filing of the case, said the JFA is determined to minimize distractions while the Jan. 9-31 tournament is ongoing, and has yet to decide on a course of action.
“Last night it was reported that the case involving Aguirre had been accepted by the court,” Daini told reporters at the JFA’s headquarters in Tokyo. “We are trying to confirm whether that is official or not, and as yet we haven’t been able to do so. We can presume from the details that it is true.
“We have discussed what we as a federation should do, and we have decided that the priority should be on allowing the team to concentrate solely on defending its Asian Cup title. The matter is closed for now, and I hope you understand.
“Once the Asian Cup has finished, then we will explain how we will respond. We are still gathering information and we have not decided anything yet. We will give priority to the Asian Cup, and then we will decide.”
The JFA’s lead attorney, Yutaka Miyoshi, was keen to stress that the court’s acceptance of the case does not necessarily mean that Aguirre is guilty.
“The case has been accepted by the judge in Valencia and now a full investigation will begin,” said Miyoshi. “That does not mean he will be prosecuted. An investigation will now begin, and once that has taken place, the decision will be taken to prosecute or not. In Japan, the likelihood of him being prosecuted at this stage would be 99.9 percent, but Spain has a different system.
“This is the first match-fixing case in Spain, so it’s difficult to accurately say how likely it is that there will be a guilty verdict.”
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