Champion jockey Kieren Fallon was one of 11 people charged today in relation to the City of London police investigation into allegations of corruption in racing.
The six-times leading rider was charged with conspiracy to defraud customers of the betting exchange Betfair.com after an investigation spanning nearly two years.
Fallon was one of 28 people to answer bail at Bishopsgate police station in connection with the inquiry.
Fellow jockeys Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams, as well as trainer Alan Berry and farrier Steve O’Sullivan, were also charged with conspiracy to defraud.
But Robert Winston, one of the rising stars of the weighing room, Paul Bradley and Dale Jewett were all released from bail after reporting to the police, as was trainer Karl Burke.
Winston’s agent Richard Hale said: “They’ve released him without charge.
“He’s never expressed any fears because he has always said that he’s not guilty so had nothing to worry about, but obviously it’s nice to get it out of the way.”
Middleham trainer Burke said: “I was released without charge.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Wilmott of City of London Police said the investigation – the largest of its type undertaken by the force – had started when Betfair approached the Jockey Club (now Horseracing Regulatory Authority).
He said: “In early 2004, Betfair, an Internet betting exchange, brought to the attention of the Jockey Club a number of what they considered to be irregular betting patterns.
“The security department of the Jockey Club undertook an investigation and came to the conclusion that there was potential criminality that could undermine the integrity of horse racing.”
He added that today’s events had followed consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service and a leading QC over whether charges should be brought.
In total during the investigation, 34 arrests were made, more than 500 interviews undertaken, at least 1,300 statements obtained, and almost 40,000 pages of evidence passed to the CPS.
Detective Superintendent Tony Crampton, who led the “extensive” inquiry, said the conspiracy to defraud charges had been brought against individuals including Fallon over allegations that they had agreed not to run horses “on their merit”.
He also revealed that Berry and O’Sullivan had been charged with conspiracy to defraud in relation to the horse Hillside Girl, which they are accused of dishonestly entering into a race before subsequently laying against it winning - in other words, betting that it would lose the race.
Those charged also included former owner Miles Rodgers who is accused of conspiracy to defraud and an offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Joanne Richardson, who is believed to be Rodgers’ former partner, is accused of an offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act as are Darren Armitage and Brian Pilkington, both from Barnsley.
Philip Sherkle, of Tamworth, and Lynch’s brother Shaun, are also charged with conspiracy to defraud customers of Betfair.
All will initially appear at City of London Magistrates’ Court on July 17 with the CPS expecting the case to split into three linked trials likely to be sent to either Southwark Crown Court, or the Old Bailey, with the first not likely to start before spring 2007.
In a statement, the CPS said its advice to City of London Police had followed a “detailed review” of the evidence by a lawyer from its Special Crime division.
“This was necessarily a protracted investigation in view of the need to obtain crucial evidence from a large number of sources,” it said.
“Among other material, the CPS has had to examine just under 40,000 pages of paper evidence.
“In February and June 2006, Mr Fallon’s solicitors provided written representations to the CPS, which required the bail date to be extended to July.
“With interviews taking place as recently as the last two weeks, the CPS was able to make its decision in the last week of June.”
Jonathan Caplan QC has been appointed as leading counsel.