Officers raided various locations across the city state to arrest the 12 men and two women. Five of those arrested, including Dan Tan, were detained pending further investigations. The others were released on bail.
This is not the first time that Dan Tan – real name thought to be Tan Seet Eng – has been questioned over his alleged role at the head of a network responsible for fixing matches from Africa to eastern Europe to central America.
However because Singapore has highly restrictive extradition arrangements previous attempts to hold him and construct a case have proven in vain.
The latest action followed a high-speed operation in Australia last week where 10 people were arrested over alleged matchfixing by players of the Southern Stars club in the Victoria Premier League.
Melbourne police believe the operation was set up by Wilson Raj Perumal, a long-time associate of Dan Tan – even though Perumal was in Hungary at the time ‘helping police’ with investigations into matchfixing there.
Italian prosecutors have long been among the active pursuers of Dan Tan. They have laid court documents in Singapore, claiming that dozens of league and cup games have been fixed by his networkers over the past five years.
Club officials, referees and players have been implicated in the scams which led to millions of dollars being generated by betting on rigged games between 2008 and late 2011.
Singapore police sources, however, said the swoops followed a months-long local investigation and were not connected to arrest requests from foreign law agencies.
Ronald Noble, secretary-general of Interpol, issued a statement concerning the latest action.
He said: “Police confirm that the suspected leader and several other individuals who are the subject of ongoing investigations in other jurisdictions for match fixing were among the persons arrested.
“Singaporean authorities have taken an important step in cracking down on an international match-fixing syndicate by arresting the main suspects in the case, including the suspected mastermind; no person should doubt Singapore’s commitment to fighting match-fixing.”
Last February the European anti-crime agency Europol said that a Singapore-based syndicate had directed match-fixing for at least 380 matches in Europe alone in a multi-million euro operation.
Matches were said to include Champions League ties and World Cup qualifiers.
The following month police investigators from Singapore travelled to Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon, France, to review all the issues and information.
Chris Eaton, former FIFA head of security, described Tan’s arrest as “enormously significant” because it signalled that Singapore had started to take action.
Eaton is now integrity director with Qatar-based ICSS which provided international context for the Victoria Police in their operation last week. He explained: “These people bridge the match fixers and the betting fraud.”
A steady stream of suspensions has been handed down by world federation against matchfixers uncovered and convicted by national football federations.
In April three Lebanese match officials were replaced hours before an Asian club cup tie in Singapore. Subsquently referee Ali Sabbagh was jailed for six months in Singapore for accepting sexual favours to fix the game between local Tampines Rovers and India’s East Bengal.
Last month FIFA ordered life bans on players from Estonia and Tunisia as well as match officials from Armenia; earlier this month police in Czech Republic and Slovakia made a dozen arrests in connection with match manipulation.