More S'poreans linked to global match-fixing scandal
THEY LURK IN THE SHADOWS
FOCUS: Dan Tan Seet Eng, the man at the epicentre of match-fixing allegations in Europe.
KELONG: Wilson Raj Perumal
One of two brothers said to be new players
A businessman operating out of Little India
Anthony Santia Raj
A spa owner
TNP FILE PICTURES
REPORT: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF and
WHILE the world seems fixated with Dan Tan Seet Eng, the man at the epicentre of match-fixing allegations in Europe, perhaps the focus should be on the "others".
That is the suggestion made by two European-based anti-corruption investigators.
Like Tan, the "others" are Singaporean and involved in the murky world of match-fixing, the investigators told The New Paper yesterday.
While they might lurk in the shadows cast by the spotlight on Tan and Wilson Raj Perumal, their exploits are known to those who have followed their trail.
One of the investigators, who wanted to be known only as John, said: "With the spotlight trained on Singapore and Dan Tan's syndicate, it deflects the glare on others doing the same fixing globally.
"These Singaporeans have been operating below the radar."
Perhaps not for long.
Europol's statement two days ago that 680 matches worldwide were fixed by syndicate members based in Singapore could possibly put some heat on them.
John, who was involved in the global "kelong" probe after convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj was arrested in Finland in 2011, said: "Some of their activities are known to law enforcement agencies, yet they have not been exposed in the media.
"It's not accurate to say that Dan Tan was solely in control of all the fixes in Europe or other parts of the world The others should also share the blame."
Another investigator, who declined to be named, said he believes there are about five major players, including financiers with their own group of runners as well as match-fixers.
TNP understands that these groups have been named in one way or another in global investigations.
Reports have mentioned them operating in regions like Latin America, Africa, Asia, parts of the Middle East and Europe.
The investigator said: "We have photographed them at international friendlies and documented and verified their contacts with corrupt players and officials. We know them."
Little India businessman
One of the more recent fixes foiled by world governing football body Fifa was an international friendly played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in March 2011.
Two representatives-financed by a businessman operating in Little India and is said to have ties with a local triad here - were sent there to ensure the fix would go smoothly.
But Fifa investigators got wind of the attempted fix and planted their men among the spectators.
Somehow, the two men were tipped off and decided to leave before half-time. They probably realised they were being watched.
A Fifa report revealed the group had lost up to US$5 million (S$6.19 million) on that match.
Another Singaporean group's existence was exposed in 2009 when its leader and an accomplice were arrested in Syria
Led by two brothers, the group had been described by insiders as "the new kids on the block".
Said John: "They were detained on arrival in Syria for possession of US$50,000, which they admitted they had (brought) with the intention of betting on the Syrian football league and bribing some players to fix match results."
The Syrian players approached by the Singapore group had reported the matter to the authorities.
"The two Singaporeans wete brought before the public prosecutor on January 2010, and they were later deported," John said.
He was briefly mentioned in Italy's Cremona investigation papers, but may have escaped closer scrutiny.
According to investigators, the Singaporean businessman in his 50s is said to be a big fish who is able to finance his own match-fixing.
He was also linked to the foiled fix in the UAE in 2011.
TNP understands he had provided part of the money needed for the UAE fix.
Surprisingly, the businessman, who owns spas here, had also accompanied Dan Tan's accomplices to Italy.
Unknown to them, the group had been monitored by the Italian authorities in relation to the alleged fixing in Serie A and Serie B.
While there, they met Tan's Balkan contacts, whom the Italian authorities said had approached players in the leagues.
Other than the money men mentioned above, there are people on the ground who organise the fixes.
They are not low-level operators such as money couriers, but trusted lieutenants who set up fixes by meeting corrupt players or match officials, said the unnamed investigator.
He said; "How many times have you heard the names Anthony Santia Raj and Gaye Alassane appear in match-fixing probes?
"They've been physically spotted in countries in Latin America and their names also appear in the recent probe on suspicious South Africa pre-World Cup friendlies."
Santia Raj organised the infamous international friendlies in Antalya, Turkey, between Estonia and Bulgaria, and Latvia and Bolivia
All the seven goals scored in the matches came from penalties and the Hungarian referees recruited by Santia Raj have since been banned for life by Fifa.
Alassane, meanwhile, was named.in a Fifa report on allegedly compromised pre-World Cup friendlies in 2010, and was fingered by El Salvador newspaper El Grafico for attempting, to fix a Concacaf Champions League game in Panama City in 2009.
TNP has previously reported on some of these "kelong kings".
When TNP contacted him previously, he denied any involvement in match-fixing activities.
He admitted he was in both locations at the time but claimed that he was "on holiday".
Hundreds of matches fixed by vast criminal network,
European police revealed on Monday
425 Suspects Including referees, players and other officials
14 Convicted so far including Wilson Raj Perumal
At least 100 more prosecutions expected
151 Suspects in Germany alone
Bribes of up to $168,000 paid per match
$3.34 million assets seized
Investigations based on analysis of 13,000 e-mails and other materials
380 Suspicious matches in Europe
5 Countries focus of investigation
300 suspicious matches outside of Europe
Estimated $13.38 million profits made from fixed matches
Largest bet profit revealed by Europol $1.18 million Austrian Bundesliga Redbull Salzburg vs Hartberg
Singapore Alleged base of betting cartel at the centre of European investigation
$3.35 million in corrupt payments to those involved in matches
Source: Europol Adapted from: AFP
Suspicions point beyond Liverpool
LIVERPOOL aren't the only English club whose Champions League matches have come under suspicion of being fixed.
More details have emerged after Europol revealed on Monday that matches in Europe's premier club competition in the past three to four years had been tainted by match-rigging.
Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet reported yesterday that the European law enforcement agency is looking at the Hungarian side Debrecen, which lost by a single goal to the Reds at Anfield in 2009.
But it is not just Uverpool whose Champions League matches have been implicated by Europol.
The New Paper understands that another English club's Champions League match was targeted by fixers.
That match involved two of the biggest clubs in European football and was played in Italy between the English Premier League club and an Italian Serie A club.
A source said that investigators in Germany were able to zero in on the compromised games through several thousand confiscated betting slips.
The anti-corruption investigator, who declined to be named, said: "These betting slips contained the names of the matches and also put a spotlight on one betting agency in the UK with links to match-fixers in Europe and Asia."
While the alleged fixers for the Champions League matches were not Singaporean, they had indirect ties to local match-fixers.
TNP previously reported about links between local match-fixers and their European counterparts.
The Cremona investigation papers into match-fixing in Italy showed links between alleged local match-fixing financier Dan. Tan Seet Eng and eastern European match-riggers such as Zoltan Kenesei, Latzslo Schultz and Balazs Polyak.
Wilson Raj Perumal's phone records after his arrest in Finland in February 2011 also revealed connections with fixers from around the world.
As with Liverpool, there is no suspicion of wrongdoing on the part of the other English club involved in the allegedly compromised match.
Said the anti-corruption investigator: "They (the English team) didn't know anything about it. It was just the other club involved who had match-fixing elements still existing in the team,"
Singapore not doing enough?
GPC member says not true
BIG NEWS: (From left) Newspapers from England, France and Germany on the scandal.
REPORT: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF
and DILENJIT SINGH
EUROPOL'S recent report on match-fixing has given Singapore a bad name, said several experts interviewed by international wire agencies.
Some of them have even accused Singaporean authorities of not doing enough to crack down on the global "kelong kings" in their own backyard. ·
But Government Parliamentary Committee member (Home Affairs and Law) Alvin Yeo does not agree that Singapore is not doing enough to assist the international effort against match-fixing.
He told The New Paper yesterday: "We generally take our international obligations very seriously, plus we pride ourselves on being tough on crime, so I do find it a little hard to believe we would not take these obligations seriously.
"I find it hard to believe that if there were Interpol arrest warrants out for individuals and they were indeed in Singapore that we wouldn't be taking steps to arrest them."
Mr Yeo added that what is coming out in media reports might not be giving the full picture of how involved Singapore authorities are.
He said: "It may be that they are cooperating fully and the international agencies have no issue, but there may be some analysts commenting in the public arena and their information may not be totally accurate."
'Potential to damage'
Speaking to AFP, Mr Jonathan Galaviz, managing director of US-based consultancy Galaviz & Co, had said that the Europol report has "the potential to severely damage the global reputation of Singapore as a safe and ethical financial hub in Asia".
Mr Galaviz, who has closely watched Asia's gaming industry, added: "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.
"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."
Mr 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".
On Monday, European anti-crime agency Europol said that an organised crime syndicate based in Singapore was behind about 680 suspicious matches, including qualifying games for the World Cup, European Championships and the Champions League.
Mr Declan Hill, an author and investigative journalist who believes gangs avoid detection by fixing the betting companies as well as matches, recently called on authorities to arrest Singaporean Dan Tan Seet Eng, who he said is an alleged major "fixer" in Singapore.
"There's an effort to say that taking on match-fixing is a complicated, sophisticated activity that involves taking on dark, mysterious figures," Mr Hill, the author of The Fix: Soccer and Organised Crime, told Reuters in an interview.
"We know the fixer. There's one guy who helped fix games in over 50 countries in the world. This is Finnish police, the Hungarian police, the German-police, the Italian police saying this."
In response to queries from TNP, the police here said: "The authorities in Singapore are assisting the European authorities in their investigations into an international match-fixing syndicate that purportedly involves Singaporeans.
"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."
News, The New Paper, Wednesday February 6 2013, Pg 2-4