A Singaporean national at the core of a global soccer match-fixing scandal

source: http://www.goal.com/en-sg/news/3880/singapore/2013/02/05/3727987/the-perumal-connection-match-fixing-from-singapore-to
A Singaporean national at the core of a global soccer match-fixing
scandal provided key information that led to this week's disclosure by
Europol

Europol suspects that as many as 680 games on four continents were
fixed by Asian crime syndicates and their European helpers.

Convicted in Finland in 2011 on match fixing charges and subsequently
extradited to Hungary, one of several European countries where he is
wanted, Wilson Raj Perumal, a 47-year old engineer of Tamil origin,
agreed to map out the syndicates' global operations in exchange for
protective custody. "I hold the key to the Pandora's box. And I will
not hesitate to unlock it," he said in one of a series of letters to
Singapore's The New Paper.

Mr. Perumal's revelations and Europol's disclosure add to a series of
corruption scandals that have rocked world soccer in the last two
years. The seriousness of the investigation into match-fixing is
likely to contrast starkly with efforts by world soccer body Fifa and
many of its constituent regional associations to root out corruption.

Those efforts have largely only skimmed the surface even though they
led to the inevitable resignation or banning from involvement in
soccer of several executive committee members, including Asian
Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohammed Bin Hammam. They have
yet to address an environment of backroom, back-slapping,
non-transparent soccer politics that have spurred widespread
perceptions of corruption.

Fan outrage over the match fixing scandal potentially could change
that. Fifa has so far been under little, if any, fan pressure to
introduce radical reforms. As a result, its major corporate sponsors
politely expressed concern when the scandals first erupted in late
2010 and 2011 but did little to encourage Fifa to truly mend its ways.
Europol's disclosure of the extent of match fixing that may have even
effected English championship games and European qualifiers could
spark grassroots protests.

Indeed, in seeking protective custody from his former associates whom
he had short changed to pay off gambling debts reportedly to the tune
of $3 million, Mr. Perumal, believed to have been one of the smoothest
operators of the match fixing scheme, may have provided the monkey
wrench needed to fundamentally change governance of the beautiful
game.

His operations did not simply involve the buying of corrupt players
and referees but in increasingly also of whole soccer associations,
particularly cash-starved ones in Africa eager to play all-expenses
paid friendlies. In the process, Mr. Perumal and his associates
generated hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent gambling
winnings for Asian and European syndicates in a global business that
grew exponentially with television and the Internet.

Fifa investigators say Mr. Perumal perfected his approach of
associations in addition to individuals in the late 1990s in Africa in
countries like Ghana and Zimbabwe. He projected himself as a promoter
acting on behalf of front companies that arranged friendly matches.
"Most football associations are broke. When you go up to them with an
opponent who is prepared to ... play a friendly, they welcome you with
open arms. They don't realize what is hidden beneath," he said in one
of his letters to The New Paper.

Mr. Perumal's downfall was a friendly between Bahrain and Togo in 2011
when it became apparent that Togo had fielded a fake team that
surprisingly defeated the Gulf squad 3:0. The key to unravelling what
had happened in Bahrain was the revelation by a Bahraini soccer
official that the match had been arranged by a Singapore-based,
Fifa-approved agent.

In effect however, the beginning of Mr. Perumal's end preceded the
match in Bahrain. A petty criminal with a long charge list involving
housebreaking, theft, forgery, cheating and match-fixing, he fled
Singapore for a Tamil community near London's Wembley Station to evade
serving five years in prison for running over a policeman in 2009.

Authorities finally caught up with him when he was stopped at an
airport in Finland in 2011 as he was attempting to leave the country
on a false passport. They were acting on a tip of one of his
associates. With Mr. Perumal spilling the beans to save his own neck
and take revenge on those he feels betrayed him, the syndicates appear
to have made a fatal mistake in fingering.

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of
International Studies, co-director of the University of Wuerzburg's
Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of
Middle East Soccer blog.

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