RIO DE JANEIRO: Sceptical FIFA has asked German news magazine Der Spiegel to provide a complete record of its exchange with Wilson Raj Perumal in the confusion over World Cup matchfix allegations writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
This follows the magazine’s report that Singaporean Perumal, a convicted fixer, had predicted both the four-goal margin of Cameroon’s group defeat by and that a player would be sent off (as was Alex Song).
The comments were reportedly extracted from a Facebook exchange. However Perumal, currently detained in Finland on an international arrest warrant, has rebutted the reported timing and context of his comments.
Cameroon’s football federation, FECAFOOT, has promised an investigation as part of an inquiry ordered by President Paul Biya into the team’s overall failure at the World Cup. The Indomitable Lions lost all three games.
World federation FIFA, according by security director Ralf Mutschke, has “substantial doubts about the alleged manipulation” as reported by Spiegel. In a statement Mutschke said he has requested that editors “provide us with all communications with Perumal and any other material they claim to possess.”
FIFA has been irritated by the possibility of mischievous or unsubstantiated claims casting any shadow over a World Cup on which it is leaning heavily to polish an image tarnished by a string of corruption scandals.
Mutschke added: “The article has put the integrity of FIFA World Cup matches into question which is a serious issue.
“FIFA has monitored all games to date and will continue to all remaining matches. So far we have found no indication of match manipulation on the betting exchanges in relation to any of the World Cup matches.”
Spiegel has insisted it is entirely content with the veracity and credibility of its reporting.
Perumal’s own statement tells another story.
He said: “Contrary to the ‘revelations’ published by Der Spiegel I did not predict the result of the Cameroon v Croatia match.
“The Facebook chat with the Der Spiegel journalist took place a few days after the match – June 21st, as confirmed by my Facebook log – and was but an informal assessment of the behaviour of the Cameroon team at the Brazil 2014 World Cup after they had played two of their three group stage matches, including the one with Croatia.
“At no time did I make reference to four goals being scored or to a red card being issued. At no time did I suggest that I had any way of corroborating or substantiating what was meant to be an educated guess based on my extensive match-fixing experience.
“Last but not least: at no time was I informed by the Der Spiegel journalist that our chat was going to end up in the German publication.
“I am shocked and amazed that a respected magazine such as Der Spiegel would go so far as to fabricate statements by yours truly with the visible aim of stirring the row over match-fixing. I apologize to the Cameroon FA and to its fans if I inadvertently offended them; it was not my intention. I strongly believe that Der Spiegel should also do the same since they placed words in my mouth that I did not utter.”
A major challenge for both news organisation and the sports authorities is the total and utter unreliability of whatever Perumal may say.
Chris Eaton, FIFA’s former security chief and integrity director for the Qatar-based ICSS, set out the credibility challenge based on his own experience investigating matchfixing.
Eaton said: “If it is confirmed that the advice from Perumal was made before the match and is accurate to the overall result and red card, then this allegation will no doubt be treated extremely seriously by football, governments and beyond.
“I understand that he has made other ‘predictions’ during this competition that have not proved accurate . . . The advice we [at ICSS] have received from the legal or so-called ‘regulated’ sport betting industry is that there was ‘no observable suspicious betting on this match’.”
However Eaton cautioned: “Since his first arrest in Finland in 2011 Perumal has gradually been giving accurate information on global match fixing in football. He has also given a great deal of disinformation. His motivation for these selective trickles and leaks of information are unclear, but could be very personal.
“He has said publicly that he is engaged in ‘revenge’ against former fellow criminals for his arrest in 2011 and in avoiding extradition back to Singapore where he faces five years imprisonment.
“Looking at recent reports, it is my view that Perumal is himself playing a game. His selective and even the dramatic timing in his exposure of information over time suggests that he has never completely revealed what he knows and which criminal organisations he maintains contact with.”
# # # # # # # ############