Singapore under pressure over global match-fixing ring


Singapore's reputation for low corruption came under fire Tuesday
after revelations that a criminal gang based in the city-state rigged
hundreds of football matches in Europe and elsewhere.

While police had no immediate comment and some of the country's
state-linked media downplayed the news, some Singaporeans expressed
shock and analysts said the scandal could harm the wealthy island's
squeaky-clean image.

In just the latest indication that Singapore is at the heart of a
global match-fixing empire, European police said 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

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

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.

But the latest news shone a harsh light on the problem and raised
potential problems for Singapore's reputation, as well as questions
about how authorities are dealing with the match-fixing syndicates,
analysts said.

"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

"It looks like this global investigation has a long way to go and
Singapore's government must get ahead of the curve on it quickly.

"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 football is a sport with a global audience, including
millions of fans in Asia, and while there are small cases of illegal
sports betting in almost every country, "it looks like this case is
going to have global ramifications of epic proportions".

"What is disturbing about this case is that it seems that Singapore's
status as a financial hub was potentially being used for nefarious
purposes, and that is going to be extremely disturbing to a lot of

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.

Singapore police said they were formulating a response to the European
announcement. Meanwhile, the country's leading daily, the Straits
Times, put the story on page three.

One Singaporean Twitter user called the news "pretty damn shocking"
while another said it was not the kind of world attention the country
would choose.

"The European match fixing scandal is orchestrated by a syndicate
based in Singapore?! That's one way to get us on the map," tweeted Far

Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy has
consistently ranked Singapore as Asia's least corrupt country.

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