HARARE, Zimbabwe — A former chief executive of the Zimbabwean football federation will stand trial later this month on charges of fraud, bribery and corruption related to a match-fixing scandal involving the national team.
Henrietta Rushwaya was freed on $500 bail on Monday. She was ordered to reappear in a Zimbabwean court on Feb. 20.
Rushwaya was arrested last Thursday after being accused of working with an Asian betting syndicate to organize several fixed matches when the Zimbabwe national team toured Asia between 2007 and 2009.
A ZIFA investigation found that Rushwaya was the mastermind behind the fixes and allegedly used secret agents connected to the country's longtime ruler, President Robert Mugabe, to manipulate players and coaches on the tours to Asia.
Rushwaya is alleged to have received "huge payouts" from the betting syndicates, according to the investigation.
Rushwaya denies the allegations, labeling them "false" after making a brief appearance in a Harare court on Monday.
"I want to make a plea to those who have been involved to come clean and provide the nation with answers," said Rushwaya, who was fired by ZIFA in October 2010 for mismanagement before the fixing investigations were concluded.
"It is nice that the case has started."
The scandal has resulted in the suspension of more than 80 players — most of them internationals — by the Zimbabwean FA. The tally is expected to rise as investigations continue.
Zimbabwe's then-national team captain, three teammates and a coaching staff member admitted in sworn statements that they had been paid to lose games on a tour to Malaysia and Thailand in 2009.
The team lost 2-0 to Jordan, 3-0 to Thailand and 6-0 to Syria, and players told of how representatives of the betting syndicates were even present in the team's dressing room at halftime of one match to give instructions on how the game should go. Games on tours in 2007 and 2008 were also said to be fixed.
"She (Rushwaya) wielded so much power in the association to become untouchable and a mini-god and could manipulate players and coaches alike to do her will," the ZIFA report stated. "Players were afraid of her and (ZIFA) board members also felt intimidated by her.
"The sheer number of players involved (in match-fixing) is forbidding."
In ZIFA's report, former team manager Ernest Sibanda said Wilson Raj Perumal was central to the fixing and met players in Rushwaya's hotel room in Malaysia, where they were paid up to $6,000 each to throw games.
"Raj was paying the players," Sibanda told investigators. "They were paid, approximately, between $3,000 and $4,000 each."
Perumal is currently in jail in Finland on corruption charges there.
Zimbabwe coach Norman Mapeza is among 10 off-field staff members who are implicated and face suspension when the ZIFA board next meets.
ZIFA boss Jonathan Mashingaidze told The Associated Press that the national team is being rebuilt ahead of the match against Burundi on Feb. 29.
The decision to suspend the players was made following Zimbabwe's failure to qualify for the African Cup of Nations, which is currently being staged in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
"We can't start a competitive campaign with players who have been exposed to match-fixing. It will be folly," Mashingaidze said. "We have to start rebuilding the team instead of living in paradise with tainted players."