Football: S'pore helping Europol probe match-fixing ring

source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_sports/view/1252501/1/.html

SINGAPORE: Singapore police said Tuesday they were helping European
authorities in their investigation into an international crime
syndicate that rigged hundreds of football matches in Europe and
elsewhere.

"The authorities in Singapore are assisting the European authorities
in their investigations into an international match-fixing syndicate
that purportedly involves Singaporeans," the police said in a
statement.

"Singapore takes a strong stance against match-fixing and is committed
to working with international enforcement agencies to bring down
transnational criminal syndicates, including those that involve the
acts of Singaporeans overseas, and protect the integrity of the
sport."

In the latest indication that Singapore is at the heart of a global
match-fixing empire, Europol said Monday they had smashed a network
rigging hundreds of games, including in the Champions League and World
Cup qualifiers.

Europol said a five-country probe had identified 380 suspicious
matches targeted by a Singapore-based betting cartel, whose illegal
activities stretched to players, referees and officials across the
world.

A further 300 suspicious matches have been identified outside Europe
in Africa, Asia, and South and Central America, in the course of the
investigation.

Analysts said revelations about the scale of the scandal could damage
Singapore's squeaky-clean image as one of the world's least corrupt
nations.

Singapore's role in international match-rigging has long been clear,
with Wilson Raj Perumal jailed in Finland in 2011 and another
Singaporean, Tan Seet Eng or Dan Tan, wanted in Italy over the
"calcioscommesse" scandal.

However, the latest announcement uncovered the huge scale of the
activities, and raised potential problems for Singapore's reputation,
as well as questions about how authorities are dealing with the
match-fixing syndicates.

"This story has the potential to severely damage the global reputation
of Singapore as a safe and ethical financial hub in Asia," said
Jonathan Galaviz, managing director of US-based consultancy Galaviz &
Co, who has closely watched Asia's gaming industry.

"Singapore's public policy makers need to reassess whether they have
enough resources dedicated to monitoring and enforcing laws relating
to illegal gambling and sports corruption in the country," he told
AFP.

"Major questions will arise as to what the government authorities in
Singapore knew, when did they know it, and why this illegal network
running out of Singapore was not caught sooner."

Galaviz said it was "extremely disturbing" that in the match-fixing
case, "Singapore's status as a financial hub was potentially being
used for nefarious purposes".

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said it takes "a serious
view of allegations pertaining to match-fixing and football
corruption" and vowed to "spare no effort" to crack down on any such
activities.

"The problem of match-fixing is not just confined to Asia," FAS said
in a statement.

"It is a global problem and FAS will continue to work closely with the
relevant authorities, both at the domestic and international levels,
to combat match fixing and football corruption aggressively."

Zaihan Mohamed Yusof, an investigative reporter with Singapore's New
Paper who is considered a leading authority on match-fixing, admitted
he was taken aback by the numbers revealed by Europol.

"This number to me it's huge, 680," he told AFP. "Whether Singaporeans
were involved in the whole 680, I'm not sure but at least there's a
figure and you can see the scale there."

And Neil Humphreys, a popular sports columnist and author, asked why
"so little is being done to question Singaporean individuals allegedly
involved in such a global match-fixing operation".

"More pertinently, the issue has not received quite the same
front-page media attention that it has in other football-popular
countries, despite the obvious fact that Singapore is allegedly home
to the ringleaders of the world's biggest match-fixing syndicate," he
told AFP.

The local daily, the Straits Times, put the story on page three Tuesday.

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