Asian Crime Syndicates Infiltrate Australia, Threaten Singapore's Clean Reputation
Police fear int'l match-fixing syndicates "are grooming Australian sports stars as part of long-term plans to infiltrate local competitions," according to John Silvester of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Organized crime experts have identified A-League football and Big Bash cricket "as likely targets of Asian crime cartels." Intelligence shows that there has been "a massive increase in Asian betting on Australian sporting events," with up to A$40M ($41.2M) held off-shore on one A-League game. Asian syndicates, "both legal and illegal, are estimated to turn over" about A$2B a month. The Victorian Deputy Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said match fixing "is imminent" in Australia. Ashton: "It is a growing area of concern for us. This thing is coming down the highway, and we have to be prepared" (SMH, 2/7).
A SINGAPOREAN REPUTATION: In N.Y., Chun Han Wong noted Singapore police said that they "are helping European authorities investigate an international criminal syndicate" alleged to have fixed football matches around the world from its base in the city-state. A Europol official said that a Singaporean man, Dan Tan Seet Eng, is "a person under investigation in the case." Former FIFA Head of Security Chris Eaton said that Tan, who is in his late 40s, "is thought to be the leader and financier of the syndicate, and has been on investigators' radar for years" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/5). The Singapore Police Force said, "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" (Singapore STRAITS TIMES, 2/5). REUTERS' John O'Callaghan noted Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said it would be wrong to assume "that only Asian organized crime is responsible for match-fixing in Europe and around the world." He said it would be unfortunate if Singapore's "well-earned anti-crime reputation" suffered from the allegations. Noble added that the city-state "must show it is serious about tackling the problem." Noble: "Until arrests are made in Singapore and until actual names, dates and specific match-fixing details are given, these organized criminals will appear above the law, and Singapore's reputation will continue to suffer." Eaton, who is now a director at Qatar's Int'l Centre for Sport Security, said Singapore was "either being very cautious, very thorough, or they don't' have enough to go on." Eaton: "I don't know why they appear to not be doing anything, but I hope they are. I'm sure they're doing their best to limit embarrassment. Now they're obliged to respond to the mounting international evidence against Singaporean gangs" (REUTERS, 2/6).
AFFECTING ITS NEIGHBORS: REUTERS' Paul Carsten wrote European police "shone a spotlight" on the Southeast Asian region when it announced the Singapore-based syndicate had directed match-fixing for at least 380 football games in Europe alone, while making at least €8M ($10.8M). Eaton said that the number, however, "paled in comparison to the gang's profiteering in Asia." Eaton: "It's infinitesimal compared to what was made in the Asian market. You can probably multiply that by a hundred." The "known cases of match-fixing occurred mostly in the West, but the real profits for the syndicates were in Southeast Asia." The images of people "entering smoke-filled rooms with bags of money and betting slips" are gone. Eaton described today's gambling institutions as most closely resembling "international finance, with its banking, derivative trading and commodities trading." Eaton: "It's all done with algorithms and machines, almost like any commodity house in the U.S. or London. The three largest houses each transact $2B a week -- a hell of a lot of money" (REUTERS, 2/6).
ATHLETES SPEAK OUT: REUTERS' Mark Meadows noted Hungarian side Debrecen goalkeeper Vukasin Poleksic "has denied attempting to fix" his club's Champions League match with Liverpool in '09. He said that "his performance should speak for itself." Poleksic said, "Anyone who watched the match would know what people are saying is bull. It was the biggest match of my career, and Liverpool have always been my favourite club. I can't believe what people have said about me. But I don't care, because I know I am clean" (REUTERS, 2/6). Meanwhile, in London, Nick Hoult noted former Pakistani cricketer Salman Butt "has appealed for leniency as he prepares to make a final attempt this week to have his worldwide ban for sport fixing reduced." Butt will appear at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland on Friday to appeal against his 10-year ban, five of which are suspended, handed out by the Int'l Cricket Council in '11. He is being punished "for his part in an arrangement with an undercover reporter to bowl three no-balls in a Lord's Test against England" (TELEGRAPH, 2/6). The AFP noted German parliamentarians have called on FIFA President Sepp Blatter "to act fast." Politician Viola von Cramon said, "Although Sepp Blatter talks about wanting to help in the fight against match manipulation, he doesn't follow his words with actions. FIFA needs to step up the fight against corruption and betting fraud, so they don't lose authority" (AFP, 2/6).
THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME...: In London, Martin Samuel opined the moment UEFA President Michel Platini "flooded an elite competition with no-hoper contestants, the Champions League became a corruption scandal waiting to happen." Season '09-10 saw the introduction of Platini's "champions route," with five teams from smaller European nations "receiving a golden ticket to the ranks of the elite." At face value, "it seemed a noble idea but, as usual, its creator had not anticipated the flaws." Platini "unthinkingly" constructed a lopsided competition in which some clubs "are little more than makeweights." In the world of extreme gambling, "this is precisely the climate required." The "fiercer the competition, the greater the reward, the less incentive there can be to cheat." No "amount of money could have stopped Chelsea and Bayern Munich going at it hammer and tongs in last season's Champions League final." But "dead rubbers, or doomed missions, are where the fixers work their way in" (DAILY MAIL, 2/5). In Abu Dhabi, UAE, Osman Samiuddin wrote football, "the greatest game in the world regularly pulls off one of the greatest tricks by repeatedly sidestepping deeper questions about its integrity and moving on." It is not as if the revelations of Europol "are the first of their kind." There are "long-standing concerns about football" in parts of East Asia, as well as "any number of leagues" in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Yet, as "inevitably as each new scandal emerges, so it slips off in the self-aggrandising world of football, like some Teflon politician" (THE NATIONAL, 2/5). In London, King & Townend opined even the gambling experts "cannot put hand on heart and confidently reveal the scope of the Asian gambling market -- illegal and legal -- but 'off the scale' would be a safe bet." An insider claimed that "while genuine cheating is rare in connection with the British game, payments for inside information on matches are rife." The knowledge that half a squad has been suffering fro gastroenteritis or that the star striker has a hamstring strain "is gold dust to a bookmaker when there is live, wall-to-wall football being beamed around the globe and feeding a frenzied betting market" (DAILY MAIL, 2/5).