European investigators have uncovered evidence that hundreds of football matches at club and national level were fixed around the globe in a scam
run from Singapore, police said on Monday.
joint inquiry by Europol, the European anti-crime agency, and national
prosecutors has identified about 680 suspicious matches including
qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championship, and for
the Champions League for European club sides, Europol head Rob
some of which have already been subject to successful criminal
prosecutions, were played between 2008 and 2011. About 380 of the
suspicious matches were played in Europe, and a further 300 were
identified in Africa, Asia, and south and central America.
Football is the world's most popular sport, watched by billions live and on
television around the globe and making huge profits for some clubs and
Last year the
head of an anti-corruption watchdog estimated that $1 trillion was
gambled on sport each year - or $3 billion a day - with most coming from
Asia and put on football matches.
German investigator described a network involving couriers ferrying
bribes around the world, paying off players and referees in the fixing
which involved about 425 corrupt officials, players and serious
criminals in 15 countries.
have evidence for 150 of these cases, and the operations were run out
of Singapore with bribes of up to 100,000 euros paid per match," said
Friedhelm Althans, chief investigator for police in the German city of
Bochum, told a news conference.
said no names of players or clubs would be released while the
investigation proceeded. However, the fixing also included top flight
national league matches in several European countries, as well as two
Champions League matches, including one played in Britain.
police said last month that they were helping Italian authorities to
investigate alleged match fixing involving a Singaporean, but said he
had not been arrested or charged with any offence there.
said that, though German police had concrete proof of eight million euros in gambling profits from the match fixing, this was
probably the tip of the iceberg.
described how gang members immediately subordinate to the
Singapore-based leader of a worldwide network were each tasked with
maintaining contacts with corrupt players and officials in their parts
of the world.
Laszlo Angeli, a
Hungarian prosecutor, gave an example of how the scam worked. "The
Hungarian member, who was immediately below the Singapore head, was in
touch with Hungarian referees who could then attempt to swing matches at
which they officiated around the world," he said.
would then place bets on the internet or by phone with bookmakers in
Asia, where bets that would be illegal in Europe were accepted. "One
fixed match might involve up to 50 suspects in 10 countries on separate
continents," said Althans.
"Even two World Cup qualification matches in Africa, and one in Central America, are under suspicion," Althans added.
TOUGH TO FIX
World football 's governing body FIFA issued a statement pointing to quotes from
its Director of Security, Ralf Mutschke, before a match-fixing
conference in Rome last month.
Cup qualifying matches are tough to fix as a general rule, since the
World Cup is the biggest event for teams and above all players," he
said. "We're obviously still keeping a very close eye on the matches,
but as yet there have been no suspicions of fixing."
said there was a need to coordinate match fixing legislation around
Europe. "In many countries, including Germany, fixing a match only
becomes a crime if you then place a bet on the outcome," he said, adding
that proving a bet had been placed was often difficult.
year Chris Eaton, who is director of Sport Integrity at the
International Centre for Sport Security, a Qatari-backed anti-corruption
watchdog, gave the $1 trillion estimate for global sports gambling.
80 percent of that money is gambled on football, soccer, and most of
that money is either in or to southeast Asia," said Eaton, a former head
of security at FIFA, world football's governing body.
said mafia gangs were attracted to match-fixing because it was a way of
laundering cash and estimated they were making hundreds of millions of
goes beyond football. Three Pakistani test cricketers were jailed in
Britain in 2011 for their part in a scam where players agree to rig a
specific part of a game, so-called "spot fixing".
incidents occurred during an international match against England in the
summer of 2010, at Lord's, the home of cricket and came to light as a
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