Former Marseille coach handed two-year jail sentence

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - Former Olympique Marseille coach Rolland Courbis was sentenced to two years in prison on Wednesday by a French appeals court which upheld his conviction in a player transfer fraud scandal.

He was also fined 200,000 euros (140,000 pounds).

Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who holds a majority stake in the club, was handed a ten-month suspended prison sentence and a 200,000 euro fine, the court ruled.

Prosecutors had said some 22 million euros were illegally diverted from club funds as part of the transfer of 15 players between 1997 and 1999, including World Cup winners Laurent Blanc and Christophe Dugarry.

At the initial trial last year Courbis was handed a three and a half year prison term and Louis-Dreyfus a three-year suspended sentence. They also both received 375,000 euro fines.

Both men denied misusing club funds and appealed against their sentence, leading to Wednesday’s final verdict.

During the original trial, which followed a six-year investigation, the court heard of a complicated system of international cash transfers between several tax havens as part of a system of hidden commissions paid on player moves.

Courbis was Marseille coach from 1997 to 1999 and now trains second division club Montpellier-Herault.

He might escape having to go to prison because of time spent in detention when the scandal broke. The court ruled on Wednesday that he should not lose his coach’s permit.