Michael Chopra will not defend himself in horse racing corruption case
• Ipswich player says he cannot afford a legal challenge
• Footballer claims ban will help fight gambling addiction
Ipswich Town footballer Michael Chopra has announced that he will not defend himself in the corruption case scheduled to start at the British Horseracing Authority next week.
Chopra, fellow footballer James Coppinger, and the jockey Andrew Heffernan, are among nine individuals who could face long bans from racing after being charged with serious breaches of the anti-corruption rules by the BHA in October.
Chopra released a statement on Wednesday in which he revelaed that he cannot afford to mount a legal challenge because of his gambling debts, and that he would welcome a ban from the sport because it would help him fight his self-confessed addiction.
Chopra said: "On 4 October 2012, the BHA announced that they were charging me and others with breaches of the rules of horseracing. The charges are due to be heard at a two week inquiry, which commences on the 14 January 2013.
"My legal advisors, having engaged with the BHA, have been advised that even if I'm found innocent of the charges, the BHA will not refund my legal fees, which I have been advised would be at least £50,000 for being represented at the inquiry.
"I have extensive debts and loans and simply cannot afford the amount of money necessary to clear my name, with no prospects of ever recovering my costs. I am not a member of the BHA and not subject to its rules. I have been advised that the BHA is only allowed under its rules to take disciplinary action against a person who is subject to those rules, which does not include me.
"Furthermore, I understand that the only sanction that the BHA could impose on me is to ban me from racecourses and gambling establishments licensed by it. It is well publicised that I have a gambling addiction problem and I see any such sanctions as being a useful mechanism in helping me to address these problems. As of this year, I've voluntarily self-excluded myself from all betting institutions from where I live in Ipswich in order to help me fight this illness.
"For the above reasons, I have decided not to present myself to the BHA enquiry. I will be making no further comment on this matter at this stage."
Yogesh Joshee, Chopra's agent, also faces charges, along with Mark Wilson, a former player with Manchester United, Paul Garner, a former stable lad, Kelly Inglis, who is believed to have been Heffernan's girlfriend at the time of the offences, Douglas Shelley and Pravin Shingadia.
The charges against them include offering bribes, exploiting inside information for personal gain and in the case of Heffernan, three charges that he intentionally failed to ensure that a horse was ridden on its merits.
The BHA charges followed an investigation into suspicious betting patterns on a number of races at Britain's four all-weather racecourses between November 2010 and March 2011. In all, nine races are at the heart of the BHA's case, including four at Southwell, three at Lingfield and one each at Wolverhampton and Kempton.
In three of those races, Heffernan is alleged to have intentionally "stopped" his horse, knowing that it had been laid to lose on a betting exchange. The horses concerned were Wanchai Whisper, who finished second at 9-2 in a handicap at Lingfield on 28 January 2011; Gallantry, sixth of eight at 11-1 in a handicap at Kempton on 2 February 2011; and Silver Guest, last of nine when 6-1 for a minor race at Lingfield on 9 February 2011.
Heffernan is also charged with passing inside information for reward about the prospects of his rides in the races concerned and offering to receive or receiving a bribe. The remaining eight individuals, none of whom are licensed by the BHA, are all charged with using information from Heffernan to place bets on betting exchanges.
Chopra, Joshee, Shelley, Wilson and Garner are further charged with offering bribes to Heffernan. Inglis is alleged to have connived with Heffernan to receive the bribe and Garner is charged with laying bets on horses from the yard of Alan McCabe, a racehorse trainer, at a time when he was employed there.
Filed under: Euro 2012
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