John Higgins did not face charges of match fixing and bribery after they were withdrawn by the WPBSA.
He was found in breach of two lesser rules: 'intentionally giving the impression to others that they were agreeing to act in breach of the Betting Rules' and 'failing to disclose promptly to the Association full details of an approach or invitation to act in breach of the Betting Rules.'
In his summary, Ian Mill QC, presiding for Sports Resolutions UK, said:
'Mr Higgins has admitted acting in breach of Rules 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199 (Charges 3 and 4).
The Association has withdrawn Charges 1 and 2.
The Association has explained that this withdrawal resulted from an acceptance, following an investigation which all concerned have correctly characterised as very thorough and fair, that Mr Higgins had truthfully accounted for his words and actions at the meeting in Kiev on 30 April, selected extracts from which subsequently were widely publicised.
In short, his account (which has remained consistent throughout) was as follows. Mr Higgins found himself in that meeting having only just beforehand been warned by Mr Mooney that there was a possibility (nothing more) that the subject of throwing frames might arise as part of the overall business discussions that were about to commence.
Without any opportunity for mature reflection Mr Higgins, who is by nature someone who seeks to avoid confrontation or unpleasantness, decided to play along with the discussion when the topic did indeed arise. He also found the atmosphere in the meeting somewhat intimidating. His focus was entirely on bringing the meeting to an end as soon as possible and getting on a plane home. He would never throw, and had no intention at that meeting of throwing any frame, of snooker for reward.
I have no doubt that the Association was right to conclude that this account by Mr Higgins was a truthful one.'
Of Higgins's conduct and in deciding on the appropriate punishment, Mill said:
'Mr Higgins was put in a highly invidious position by Mr Mooney, who was entirely responsible for Mr Higgins’ presence in Kiev and, in particular, at the meeting there on 30 April. Mr Higgins can be criticised for the way in which he chose to respond to the situation in which he found himself.
However, I do not consider, in the circumstances that any very serious sanction should follow from his admitted breach of the Rule referred to in Charge 3. More serious is his failure to comply with his obligations under Rule 188.8.131.52 (Charge 4). There was an opportunity, albeit a relatively limited one, for him to have reported the Kiev incident to the Association prior to the News of the World story breaking.
He should have taken the opportunity to do so. Very fairly, Mr Higgins has also stated that he is unclear whether he would have reported the incident had the publicity not occurred. Mr Higgins did not, of course, know that the businessman at the Kiev meeting were undercover journalists. On the basis that they intended what they said, it was obviously a matter of the greatest importance to the integrity of the sport of snooker that those intentions were immediately reported.
Mr Higgins’ failure in this respect was extremely foolish. In mitigation, Mr Clancy SC on his behalf reminded me of his client’s exemplary record both in terms of achievement and conduct, and of his role as an ambassador for the sport. I very much bear these matters in mind. But I also consider that with such a status come particular responsibilities to other players in the game, to the Association, to its sponsors and to the viewing public to ensure that the Association’s Rules bearing on the peculiarly sensitive subject of gambling and corruption are strictly adhered to. Taken with the other Charge which he has admitted, it seems to me that his conduct in failing to report the incident immediately warrants a short suspension from his membership of the Association and from the playing rights that his membership affords him. In my judgment, the proper length of such suspension is one of 6 months. Since he was suspended by the Association pending the outcome of the investigations on 2 May 2010, the period of his suspension will end at midnight on 1 November 2010.
I also consider that Mr Higgins should suffer a financial sanction. Having considered the gravity of the admitted rule breaches and heard from Mr Clancy as to his client’s financial circumstances, I consider that he should pay a fine of £75,000 and make a contribution to the Association’s costs of £10,000. Paragraph 10.2 of the Association’s Disciplinary Rules requires any fine to be paid within 28 days. In the circumstances, I do not consider it reasonable or appropriate that Mr Higgins should have to pay such an amount within this short period. I consider that a period of 90 days is appropriate. On behalf of the Association, Mr Bourns has accepted that it is open to me so to order.'