News / Europe

Investigators Expose Global Football Fixing Scam

FIFA head of security Ralf Mutschke gestures during an interview with journalists at the Home of FIFA in Zurich, January 15, 2013.FIFA head of security Ralf Mutschke gestures during an interview with journalists at the Home of FIFA in Zurich, January 15, 2013.
FIFA head of security Ralf Mutschke gestures during an interview with journalists at the Home of FIFA in Zurich, January 15, 2013.
FIFA head of security Ralf Mutschke gestures during an interview with journalists at the Home of FIFA in Zurich, January 15, 2013.
Hundreds of soccer matches have been fixed in a global betting scam run from Singapore, police said on Monday, in a blow to the image of the world's most popular sport and a multi-billion dollar industry.

About 680 suspicious matches including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships, and the Champions League for top European club sides, have been identified in an inquiry by European police forces, the European anti-crime agency Europol, and national prosecutors.

"This is a sad day for European football," said Rob Wainwright, director of Europol. "This is now an integrity issue for football. Those responsible for running the games should hear the warnings."

The world's most popular sport, soccer is played on every continent.The World Cup and Europe's Champions League are beamed worldwide and generate billions of dollars for national associations, clubs and broadcasters.

Top players such as Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Argentina  and Cristiano Ronaldo, a Portuguese international who plays his club soccer for Real Madrid, are household names.

The matches in question, some of which have already been subject to successful criminal prosecutions, were played between 2008 and 2011, the investigators said. About 380 of the suspicious matches were played in Europe, and a further 300 were identified in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Corruption linked to Asian betting syndicates and organized crime has long been seen as a threat to the game, but Monday's announcement underlines the scale of the problem.

Ralf Mutschke, Director of Security for world soccer's governing body FIFA, said sports bodies and prosecutors needed to work more closely together.

"The support of law enforcement bodies, legal investigations, and ultimately tougher sanctions are required, as currently there is low risk and high gain potential for the fixers," said Mutschke, a German former police officer.

Criminal gangs are believed to be involved in match-fixing networks, using them as a way to launder cash. Last year the head of an anti-corruption watchdog estimated that $1 trillion was gambled on sport each year - or $3 billion a day - with most coming from Asia and wagered on soccer matches.

Singapore Connection

A German investigator described a network involving couriers ferrying bribes around the world, paying off players and referees in the fixing which involved about 425 corrupt officials, players and serious criminals in 15 countries.

"We have evidence for 150 of these cases, and the operations were run out of Singapore with bribes of up to 100,000 euros paid per match," said Friedhelm Althans, chief investigator for police in the German city of Bochum.

Singapore police said last month that they were helping Italian authorities to investigate alleged soccer match fixing involving a Singaporean, but said he had not been arrested or charged with any offense there.

German investigators said international matches were implicated as were games in Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, Bosnia, Slovenia and Canada. Suspicious games had also been identified in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Fourteen people have already been convicted in Germany in connection with the investigation.

Austrian prosecutors are investigating 20 people, including players, on suspicion of fraud and money laundering linked to fixing and betting on soccer matches, a spokesman for prosecutors in the city of Graz said.

Investigators said no names of players or clubs would be released while the investigation proceeded. However, the fixing also included top flight national league matches in several European countries, as well as two Champions League matches, including one played in Britain.

UEFA, European soccer's governing body, said it expected to receive further information from Europol in the coming days.

"As part of the fight against the manipulation of matches, UEFA is already cooperating with the authorities on these serious matters as part of its zero tolerance policy towards match-fixing in our sport," it added.

England's Football Association said it was not aware of any "credible reports into suspicious Champions League fixtures in England."

Soccer has been affected by bribery scandals in the past, with the English game suffering in the 1960s and Italian soccer hit by a series of fixing cases in recent years.

The growth of televised sport and technology that allows gamblers to bet during a match have created fresh opportunities for fraudsters with links to organized crime.

Corruption goes beyond soccer. Three Pakistani international cricketers were jailed in Britain in 2011 for their part in a  scam where players agree to rig a specific part of a game, so-called "spot fixing".

Tip of the Iceberg

Althans said that while German police had concrete proof of 8 million euros ($11 million) in gambling profits from the match fixing, this was probably the tip of the iceberg.

Investigators described how gang members immediately subordinate to the Singapore-based leader of a worldwide network were each tasked with maintaining contacts with corrupt players and officials in their parts of the world.

Laszlo Angeli, a Hungarian prosecutor, gave an example of how the scam worked. "The Hungarian member, who was immediately below the Singapore head, was in touch with Hungarian referees who could then attempt to swing matches at which they officiated around the world," he said.

Accomplices would then place bets on the internet or by phone with bookmakers in Asia, where bets that would be illegal in Europe were accepted. "One fixed match might involve up to 50 suspects in 10 countries on separate continents," said Althans.

"Even two World Cup qualification matches in Africa, and one in Central America, are under suspicion," Althans added.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Counties Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs