Singapore needs to show it is willing to tackle football match-fixing and root out a syndicate identified by European authorities as the source of a sophisticated criminal operation, according to one of the world’s leading experts on corruption in sport.
The syndicate was behind the attempted or successful manipulation of at least 380 matches in 13 European countries since 2007, Europol said on Monday.
Several police investigations have identified a Singaporean called Dan Tan Seet Eng as a key figure in the organisation and have supplied information to the authorities in the city-state, including his whereabouts.
But even though his alleged involvement has been known about for some years, he has not been arrested.
The Singapore police force issued a statement on Tuesday, saying it was assisting European authorities with their investigations into “an international match-fixing syndicate that purportedly involves Singaporeans”.
The statement added: “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.”
Chris Eaton, of the not-for-profit body the International Centre for Sport Security, who has investigated Mr Dan, said though he was at “the lower end” of the syndicate he was nevertheless an important part of the operation.
“Either Singapore is doing a deep and careful investigation or there is some other reason why they are being very quiet about it,” said Mr Eaton, who is Fifa’s former head of security.
“It’s not doing Singapore any favours for these continuing allegations to be made without Singapore showing they are interested, committed and doing something.”
Mr Eaton said he believed the top end of the syndicate involved a network of operators in southeast Asia focused on betting fraud. “We must shift the focus from sport corruption to betting fraud,” Mr Eaton said. “We need to understand how betting operates internationally.”
For its part, Fifa wants governments to impose stiffer sentences on individuals caught up in match-fixing and review their legal framework. It believes that Singapore’s jurisdiction in this area extends only to the fixing of matches in that country.
Ralf Mutschke, Fifa’s head of security, said custodial sentences “are too weak and offer little to deter someone from getting involved in match-fixing”.
Europol’s 18-month investigation involved police in Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Finland and Austria.
Friedhelm Althans, chief investigator in the German city of Bochum, where a match-fixing scandal beginning in 2009 has led to 39 convictions, said one of the main difficulties in taking such cases to the top was lack of co-ordination with police in Asia.
Mr Althans said the Singapore syndicate provided bribe money of up to €100,000 per match. But it was “difficult to get evidence of fraudulent bets, especially from Asia”, Mr Althans said.
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