The alleged matchfixing mastermind known as Dan Tan is being questioned by authorities in Singapore about his business activities.
The move against Dan Tan, real name Tan Seet Eng, followed the arrest yesterday in Milan, Italy, of a suspected associate identitied as a Slovene, Admir Suljic.
Dan Tan, an ethnic Chinese, is reported to have a personal net worth of around $60m.
Singapore police spokesman Tan Giap Ti was quoted by local media as stating that Tan – who has denied all allegations – was “currently assisting Singapore authorities in their investigations.
“The Singapore authorities have been offering assistance and sharing available information with affected countries and will continue to do so.
“We would like to reiterate that Singapore is committed to eradicating match-fixing as a transnational crime and protect the integrity of the sport, and will pursue such cases vigorously with a view to bringing perpetrators to justice.”
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.
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.
Investigators have been critical of Singapore for allowing alleged match fixers to operate freely out of the city state which has limited extradition arrangements.
Interpol’s secretary-general Ronald Noble has defended Singapore and south-east Asian countries from the charge that they had allowed the region to become a hub for international match-fixing. He has insisted that European police had not shared information internationally, leaving the Asians with little evidence on which to act.
The arrest of Suljic and questioning of Dan Tan followed within hours of a two-day conference, organised by the Asian Football Confederation, FIFA and Interpol on the subject of matchfixing.
Earlier this month the European police agency Europol published a coordinated review of action taken against matchfixing rings in, mainly, European football. It claimed 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 15 matches across Europe and another 300 questionable games outside the continent, mainly in Africa, Asia and South and Central America. More than 50 arrests of 400-plus suspects had been undertaken.
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.
He was being taken to Cremona for questioning over the plethora of matchfixing cases in Italy which have seen the arrests of more than 50 people, with more than 150 placed under investigation, over the past two years.
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’.
Singapore appears to be stepping up its action against matchfixing out of political concern about the country’s image being generated worldwide by all the negative publicity.
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.
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.
By Keir Radnedge