Sunday 17 November 2019

Football in crisis as 'shocking scale' of match-fixing revealed

Robin Scott-Elliot London

The shocking scale of global match-fixing in football organised by criminal syndicates based in Singapore and the Far East has been laid bare, with a Champions League tie played in England among nearly 700 games authorities believe may have been fixed.

The fixture, which authorities declined to name, took place within the last four years and is one of two in the Champions League under investigation. Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet reported last night that it was Liverpool's 1-0 win over the Hungarian team Debrecen in the Champions League group stage in 2009.

A spokesman for Liverpool last night said: "Liverpool Football Club has not been contacted by anyone from Europol or Uefa in relation to this matter."

Dozens of World Cup and European Championship qualifying games, Europa League ties and domestic matches in various continental leagues are also facing scrutiny.

In total, 380 European matches are under suspicion, with a further 300 in Africa, Central and South America and Asia also identified.

"This is a significant threat to the integrity of football," said Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, which co-ordinated the operation.

"This is the work of a suspected organised crime syndicate based in Asia and operated with criminal networks around Europe. It is clear to us this is the biggest ever investigation into suspected match-fixing in Europe. It has yielded major results which we think have uncovered a big problem for the integrity of football in Europe. We have uncovered an extensive criminal network."

The English Champions League game is still being investigated, meaning the authorities are refusing to release any further details.

The announcement was the culmination of an 18-month investigation, Operation Veto, overseen by Europol and involving five European countries.

Prosecutors

The investigation has been driven by prosecutors and police in Bochum, Germany, who have carried out a number of successful prosecutions over games in the country's lower leagues, as well as the bribing of a referee to fix a World Cup 2010 qualifier between Liechtenstein and Finland.

The investigation into the game in England is likely to focus on match officials rather than the clubs involved. The fixers arget referees for larger fixtures – it costs less to bribe one man rather than a number of players. Players tend to be approached to fix games in some of Europe's lesser leagues – Finnish authorities last year convicted 11 men over fixing in their domestic league.

In all, Europol claims 425 individuals, including match referees, club officials, players and "serious criminals" are suspected of being involved in attempts to fix games in 15 countries. Six of the suspects are resident in the UK. Information for the investigation was received from sources across Europe, including the Isle of Man and Alderney.

Last year, Wilson Raj Perumal, a Singaporean, was sentenced to two years in prison as part of the Finnish investigation. He is now in custody in Hungary. Perumal is believed to have links to another Singaporean, Tan Seet Eng.

Tan is reported to be at the heart of one of the leading fixing syndicates and is the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by Interpol, and wanted by authorities in Italy and Hungary.

The illegal betting market is estimated by Interpol to be worth some £58bn (€68bn). Most of the betting takes place via illegal markets in the Far East. Fixing does not mean a definite result is necessarily arranged, although that does happen, rather that there might be a certain number of goals, or penalties scored in the second half. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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