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FROM LEFT: Germany’s Philipp Lahm, Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos, Julian Draxler and Thomas Mueller take part in a training session at the Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt Main, Germany, on Monday. Germany will play France tomorrow in Paris.
SINGAPORE: Singapore police said yesterday they 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.
Meanwhile, Germany captain Philipp Lahm has said the current corruption scandal rocking European football is damaging the game’s image with politicians here calling on FIFA boss Sepp Blatter to act.
Lahm, who will captain Germany in today’s friendly against France in Paris, said the squad was shocked by the scale of the coruption.
“Of course that surprised us,” said the Bayern Munich star.
“Something like that is obviously bad (for the sport).
“Any fan who goes to the stadium expects to see two teams meet who will do anything to win.”
Europol have said in Germany alone, criminals bet 16 million euros ($21.7m) on rigged matches, claiming eight million euros ($10.8m) in winnings.
German parliamentarians have called on Blatter, the president of football’s governing body FIFA, to act fast.
“Although Sepp Blatter talks about wanting to help in the fight against match manipulation, he doesn’t follow his words with actions,” said politician Viola von Cramon.
“FIFA needs to step up the fight against corruption and betting fraud, so they don’t lose authority.” Germany’s most capped player Lothar Matthaeus said the global popularity of football leaves it vulnerable to criminals attempting to make money.
“Football is played around the world, and there is always some black sheep trying to take advantage of this beautiful sport illegally,” he told German Sky.
“I have never been involved with such things because I have always believed in the positive side of football. But you can see what is happening all around the world of football.”
Germany has taken a tough stance on football corruption in recent years.
Bundesliga referee Robert Hoyzer was jailed in 2005 after admitting to rigging matches for a Croatian mafia circle and the German Football Federation (DFB) banned him for life.
In May 2011, Ante Sapina was sentenced to five-and-a-half years by a court in Bochum having been the leader of a gang which had bribed players and officials in matches across Europe to influence results which they then bet heavily on.Agencies