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Former Austria international Sanel Kuljic sentenced to 5 years in prison for match-fixing

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GRAZ, Austria — A criminal court has sentenced former Austria international Sanel Kuljic to five years in prison for match-fixing and physically harassing other players.

A former teammate of Kuljic at Kapfenberg, Dominique Taboga, was given a three-year prison term for his role in the betting scam, which included manipulation of 18 domestic league games in Austria's first and second divisions from 2004 to October 2013.

All top-flight games under suspicion included either Kapfenberg or Groedig — both former clubs of Taboga, who was issued a lifetime ban by the Austrian Football Federation in February.

Kuljic and Taboga partly confessed their wrongdoing during the two-month trial.

Eight of the 10 defendants, who included three more former players, were handed prison sentences. Two others were released because of a lack of evidence. The verdicts can be appealed.

Kuljic, who played 20 times for Austria until 2007 and retired five years later, was convicted for his alleged leading role in the biggest match-fixing scandal to rock Austrian football.

Kuljic and four others were charged for physically threatening players after some of the match-fixing attempts failed. The five men allegedly forced them into handing over money, cars and a laptop to settle the bets they lost.

The players allegedly received 7,000 to 25,000 euros ($9,370-$33,480) per match to influence the outcome of the games, enabling their backers from Austria, Albania, Serbia and Chechnya to earn betting profits.

The nine-year-long scam ended in November, when Taboga filed charges against Kuljic, claiming his former teammate was blackmailing him over an unsettled debt.

Criminal investigators later obtained a list with 26 footballers' names on it from two Albanian men after they were arrested for allegedly helping the players coordinate the fixing and placing of bets with Asian online bookmakers.

Prosecutors said investigations were ongoing, and 15 more people could still be charged for their alleged involvement.

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