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Danish newspaper links 'Pool clash to match-fixing probe

Liverpool's 2009 Champions League tie against Debrecen was last night alleged to be one of 380 European games under suspicion of match-fixing.

Europol, the European Union's criminal investigations arm, said yesterday a Champions League match in England was believed to be corrupt and last night Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet reported it was Liverpool's 1-0 win over the Hungarian team Debrecen in the Champions League group stage.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Liverpool, its players or officials and a club spokesman last night said: "Liverpool Football Club has not been contacted by anyone from Europol or UEFA in relation to this matter."

The report in Ekstra Bladet said Europol sources had confirmed that the match between Debrecen and Liverpool was the one involved.

The newspaper claimed the game had already been highlighted in a Dutch book about match-fixing. It stressed Liverpool were not under suspicion.

German police have already established that another of Debrecen's matches during that Champions League campaign – the 4-3 defeat to Italian side Fiorentina – was subject to attempted match-fixing by a Croatian-led criminal gang.

The goalkeeper who played for the Hungarian team that night, Vukasin Poleksic, was banned by UEFA for two years for failing to report an approach from match-fixers before the Fiorentina match. He claimed to be innocent and took the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where the ban was upheld.



"It has been proven to its comfortable satisfaction that there had been contacts between the player and the members of a criminal group involved in match-fixing and betting fraud," the CAS panel ruled.

Liverpool won the match at Anfield 1-0, the goal coming from Dirk Kuyt after Poleksic has parried a shot from Fernando Torres.

The report in Ekstra Bladet claimed fixers wanted to rig the betting market for total goals in the match, but failed.

It is understood evidence relating to the Liverpool-Debrecen game came to light when German police were investigating the Croatian match-fixer Ante Sapina, who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2011 for masterminding the fixing of at least 20 matches across Europe.

Until yesterday, England has considered itself largely immune from the problem of match-fixing, which has tainted more than 40 countries across Europe in recent years.

Europol said yesterday 680 matches around the world were under suspicion following an 18-month investigation involving police forces and investigators in 13 countries.



They drew together evidence that criminal gangs based in Singapore had corrupted around 425 officials, players and other individuals in 15 countries, paying up to €140,000 in single bribes to rig the outcome of games.

Europol said that qualifying matches for the World Cup and European Championships were being investigated as well as matches in top European leagues.

In a statement, the Football Association said it had not received any information regarding the suspicious game.

"The FA are not aware of any credible reports into suspicious Champions League fixtures in England, nor has any information been shared with us," it said.

Rob Wainwright (left), Europol's director, indicated that the match had come to light because of overseas investigations, but said it was "naive" to think that England was immune from fixing.

"It is clear that the focus of this investigation has been on other countries, not the United Kingdom," he said. "However we were surprised by the scale generally of the criminal enterprise and just how widespread it was.

"It would be naive and complacent of those in the UK to think such a criminal conspiracy does not involve the English game and all the football in Europe."

The Europol investigation drew significantly on the work of the Bochum police in Germany, where investigators said they had evidence of €8m of profit generated from gambling on fixed matches, but said this was probably "the tip of the iceberg".

It also drew on information provided by convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, a Singaporean jailed in Finland and Hungary for serial corruption of matches.

UEFA, the body responsible for overseeing the Champions League, said it would review Europol's evidence once it had received it.