Suspended Higgins denies bribe allegations

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Suspended snooker champion John Higgins has denied ever being involved in match-fixing, saying in a statement: "I would never do anything to damage the sport that I love."

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn earlier confirmed that 34-year-old Higgins had been immediately suspended from all future WPBSA tournaments pending an investigation into newspaper allegations, while the player's manager Pat Mooney has resigned from the governing body's board.

Higgins and manager Mooney were filmed in Ukraine by the News of the World newspaper allegedly agreeing to accept £261,000 in return for arranging the outcome of four frames in matches to be played later this year.

But Higgins has denied the allegations, saying: "Can I say that I have never been involved in any form of snooker match-fixing.

"In my 18 years playing professional snooker I have never deliberately missed a shot, never mind intentionally lost a frame or a match.

"In all honestly I became very worried at the way the conversation developed in Kiev. When it was suggested that I throw frames in return for large sums of money, I was really spooked. I just wanted to get out of the hotel and on to the plane home."

He added: "I didn't know if this was the Russian Mafia or who we were dealing with. At that stage I felt the best course of action was just to play along with these guys and get out of Russia (sic).

"Those who know me are aware of my love for snooker and that I would never do anything to damage the integrity of the sport I love. My conscience is 100 per cent clear."

Hearn, who is considering his own position, said an investigation would begin immediately.

The News of the World said in a statement that it was "surprised at Pat Mooney's comments that he felt intimidated whilst in Kiev given his relaxed manner and enthusiasm throughout his stay".

A spokeswoman for the paper said: "Mr Mooney also had three previous meetings during recent months with our investigations editor at bars and restaurants of his choosing in Edinburgh, a city he knows very well.

"We assume Mr Mooney did not feel intimidated during these meetings where he openly discussed John Higgins and match-fixing."

She added: "At no time whilst in Kiev did Mr Mooney or Mr Higgins show any signs of being under duress or in any way unhappy at being in our company.

"Our film and audio evidence on Mr Mooney and Mr Higgins are available to the World Professional Billiards & Snooker Association."