KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Italian police have taken into custody an associate of alleged matchfixing mastermind Tan Seet Eng, known as Dan Tan. This could prove a significant step forward in the fight against sports corruption both for the event itself but also for the message it sends out.
Slovene Admir Suljic – a member of a group known as ‘The Gypsies’ – was held on Wednesday in Singapore, considered the heart of international matchfixing criminality, and put on a flight to Italy. On the plane’s arrival at Milan’s Malpensa airport Suljic was handed over to the Italian police.
Police have said Suljic has been on the run since December 2011 and is considered a “key element” in the so-called ‘Last Bet Operation’.
The first warning that Suljic was on his way to Italy came from Ronald Noble, secretary-general of Interpol, during a closing address to a two-day conference in Kuala Lumpur about matchfixing.
The conference had been organised by Interpol and the Asian Football Confederation and was attended by 150 delegates from football and other sports and security organisations across the continent.
One of the complaints raised about the matchfixing crisis has been that the Singapore authorities have not acted against suspects and their operations.
This may be changing.
A team of four senior officers from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) will travel to Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France, within the next two weeks. They will join the Interpol Global Anti-Match-fixing Taskforce to assist in match-fixing investigations.
Led by a Deputy Assistant Commissioner from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the SPF, the Singapore team will work with Interpol on information exchange with other countries targeted by match-fixers.
Ralf Mutschke, head of security for FIFA, told the Kuala Lumpur conference on Wednesday that he hoped Tan would be brought to face the courts eventually with the help of Singapore authorities.
Singapore’s police have said they are reviewing information submitted by the Italian authorities in Tan’s case before deciding what action to take.
Tan’s former associate, Wilson Raj Perumal, has alleged that Tan placed syndicate wagers on fixed games using Asia-based online betting sites via intermediaries in China.
A report by the Europol, the European Union’s police agency, stated earlier this month that organised crime gangs, including ones in Asia, have fixed or tried to fix hundreds of football matches around the world.
Europol said its 18-month review found 380 suspicious matches in Europe and another 300 questionable games outside the continent, mainly in Africa, Asia and South and Central America.
The realisation slowly creeping across the sports world that both matchfixing and doping is being masterminded by international criminal gangs is an important one.
Policing authorities, in general, consider sports corruption as somewhere near the foot of their list of priorities; in many countries matchfixing and doping do not count as offences under the criminal code.
However the direct connection to organised international criminality will bring sports corruption racing up the policing visibility list to somewhere near the top.
Estimates from independent security thinktanks all suggest that, were it a nation state, then international criminality would rank around No8 in the world in terms of economic turnover.
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