WELLINGTON (Reuters) - People convicted of sports match-fixing in New Zealand will face up to seven years in prison under new legislation passed by the country's government on Thursday.
The Crimes (Match-fixing) Amendment Bill was part of a raft of measures introduced by New Zealand's government in the past 12 months in an effort to combat corruption in sports.
"Match-fixing is a growing problem internationally and it is the number one threat to the integrity, value and growth of sport," Sport and Recreation Minister Jonathan Coleman said in a statement after the Bill passed its third reading.
"In New Zealand, we are not immune to this growing threat. The passing of this Bill is an important step in protecting the integrity of our sport."
The timing of the Bill, which becomes effective on Dec. 15, was to coincide with New Zealand's co-hosting of the 50-over cricket World Cup with Australia next February and March and the hosting of the men's under-20 soccer World Cup next June.
New Zealand's Crimes Act did not make specific reference to match-fixing and the new legislation will make it a form of deception.
"The legislation is part of a package of wider measures," Coleman added in reference to procedures introduced to initiate greater information sharing between governmental agencies, the police and Serious Fraud Office, and the sports sector.
"The Government has worked with the sport sector and betting industry to ensure sufficient processes are in place to protect sport from match-fixing."
A national match-fixing policy was also implemented in May this year with sports organisations required to comply with the code, which introduced rules to curb match-fixing and bans from participation in sport.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien)