The NRL’s betting scandal exploded eight days out from the new season with the arrests of high-profile identities Sam Ayoub and John Elias and the laying of more charges against Canterbury-Bankstown forward Ryan Tandy.
On a day Tandy appeared in court, officers from Taskforce Suburb swooped on player agent Ayoub and confessed match-fixer Elias, later charging the pair with attempting to defraud betting agencies.
Ayoub’s business premises in the Sydney suburb of Leichhardt were also raided.
They have been granted conditional bail to appear at Downing Centre Local Court on April 7 and could face 10 years in jail if found guilty. Both men though have denied any involvement in the alleged betting scandal.
“We will be alleging these individuals dishonestly placed bets,” Detective Superintendent Arthur Katsogiannis said.
“These are serious allegations that go to the heart of the game.”
Ayoub’s lawyer Danny Eid refused to comment on whether his client would defend the charges, saying only: “I’ll speak to the court on the seventh (of April).”
The widening of the scandal over a round 24 match between Canterbury-Bankstown and North Queensland Cowboys last August came a day after the NRL had launched their new season and as Dally M medallist Todd Carney was being fined for his latest alcohol-related drama.
“It’s a seriously alarming development,” NRL boss David Gallop said.
“I can’t comment on the guilt or innocence of those that have been charged. What I can say is the game is strong in its resolve to investigate these types of issues (and) make sure that it’s placed in the hands of the police quickly.
“We’ve done that on this occasion and we now need to let them and the court process play out.”
A second NRL game could also come under scrutiny with one of Tandy’s three new charges of providing false or misleading evidence relating to a game between the Bulldogs and Gold Coast on June 18 last year.
Ayoub also represents some of the biggest names in the game, including Johnathan Thurston, Robbie Farah and Jamal Idris.
There is no suggestion any of these players are involved.
Elias, long described as a colourful rugby league identity, has been jailed three times and admitted to trying to fix a game in the 1990s in his recent book.
Detectives from the NSW Crime Command’s Casino and Racing Investigation Unit have been examining a plunge on a betting option that the first points in the Bulldogs-Cowboys game would come from a penalty goal.
Tandy was penalised two minutes into the game near the goalposts but the Cowboys did not opt for a kick at goal and instead scored a try.
In Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on Thursday, the Bulldogs prop pleaded not guilty to four charges of giving false evidence.
His bail was extended and the case adjourned for mention, also on April 7.
Police say the investigation is ongoing but refused to speculate whether there would be more arrests.
by Buford Balony