Higgins maintains innocence

Higgins maintains innocence

John Higgins’ agent today maintained that the former world number one is “100% innocent” of match-fixing charges.

Higgins is at the opening day of a two-day tribunal in central London to answer charges stemming from a News of the World investigation.

“The tribunal has just started,” Jim Cassidy said.

“John Higgins is 100% innocent of any aspect of match-fixing.”

Higgins, a three-time world champion, is answering the charges along with his manager Pat Mooney.

The 35-year-old Scot is appearing at a behind-closed-doors hearing organised by Sport Resolutions, a London-based independent dispute resolution service.

Higgins was suspended by World Snooker since the sport was rocked by the frame-fixing allegations in the News of the World newspaper on May 2 – the first day of the World Championship final.

Higgins is eager to clear his name and get back to playing, however there could be weeks of waiting ahead for the three-time former world champion if an independent panel, headed by Ian Mill QC, decide against announcing their verdict tomorrow.

If the panel can make a swift decision it will be delivered verbally to World Snooker and Higgins, and then made public.

However, the panel may elect to take two to three days before announcing the initial findings, and should the case prove sufficiently complicated they have the option of taking three to four weeks before delivering a full written verdict.

The News of the World alleged that Higgins and his manager Pat Mooney had agreed to take money to influence the outcome of matches.

Higgins and Mooney both travelled to Ukraine where they took part in a meeting with undercover reporters posing as businessmen who they believed were keen to set up tournaments in the country.

Higgins and Mooney ran the World Series of Snooker, which staged tournaments in countries the main professional tour did not visit.

The News of the World alleged they agreed to accept £261,000 in return for fixing the outcome of four frames in matches to be played later this year at the new events.

Higgins swiftly denied the claims, insisting in a statement: “Can I say that I have never been involved in any form of snooker match-fixing. In my 18 years playing professional snooker I have never deliberately missed a shot, never mind intentionally lost a frame or a match.”

Higgins insisted at the time of the allegations coming to light that he and Mooney had feared they were in the company of “Russian mafia” in Kiev and decided “to play along with these guys and get out of Ukraine”.

If Higgins is cleared, he will be free to resume his playing career with immediate effect, and could make his comeback at the World Open in Glasgow, which begins on September 18.

Should the hearing find against him, however, Higgins would face a long ban from the sport, although a lifetime ban appears out of the question, on the basis of recent remarks from Hearn.

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