Schwenker and Serdarusic acquitted for now, but appeal already filed

There is now a verdict in the well-known case, where Uwe Schwenker and Zvonimir Serdarusic, former THW Kiel manager and coach, respectively, were accused of bribery, embezzlement and fraud. The accusation dates back to a Champions League final in 2007 between Kiel and Flensburg, where they supposedly would have used club funds for payments to the referees in the game, in an attempt to influence the outcome. The prosecutor had requested prison terms to the tune of 17-18 months, in addition to rather substantial fines.

The process lasted four months in the local court in Kiel, and 17 witnesses were called in. From a handball standpoint, it is important to note that, from the outset, there has been general agreement that the game actually was played, and refereed, in an absolutely correct way, without any indications of manipulation. This, of course, has always been an important conclusion as far as the referees, Baum and Goralczyk from Poland, are concerned. However, this in itself would obviously not constitute evidence against the possibility of an attempt to influence.

The court announced, on January 26, the verdict that Schwenker and Serdarusic had been acquitted. However, in doing so, the presiding judge specifically indicated that the reason for the decision was a lack of binding evidence. “The court is not convinced about the guilt of the accused; however, it is not convinced about their innocence either”, was the rather pointed statement. This seems to suggest that the evidence presented by the prosecutor had been found to be merely circumstantial.

The relief for Schwenker and Serdarusic did not last very long, however, as a few days later it was announced that the prosecutor had appealed the verdict. The lawyer of Serdarusic commented that “this should merely be seen as a routine procedure”. There is now initially a period during which the prosecutor must justify the appeal and the initial verdict must be further clarified by the judge. Thereafter, assuming that the appeal is not withdrawn, the federal court in Leipzig will decide whether it is inclined to hear the appeal. As some commentators have noted: ”the game may be going into overtime”…