- Unbeliebable: White House turns Bieber petition response into immigration screed
- Obama signs law denying Iran ambassador’s visa, but says law is ‘advisory’
- Mich. judge to laughing convicted killer: ‘I hope you die in prison’
- Man charged in Kansas City-area highway shootings
- Keystone XL pipeline still on hold after State Dept. decision
- Fla. man charged with killing 16-month-old son to play Xbox undisturbed
- Drones from the deep: Pentagon develops ocean-floor attack robots
- Michigan mayor slaps back atheists’ try to erect ‘reason station’ at city hall
- PHILLIPS: Where is the conservative establishment?
- 7.5-magnitude earthquake shakes southern Mexico
Match-fixing probe finds 680 suspicious soccer results worldwide
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A wide-ranging match-fixing investigation has uncovered more than 680 suspicious games — including World Cup and European Championship qualifiers and two Champions League games — and found evidence that a Singapore-based crime gang is closely involved in match-fixing, Europol said Monday.
The investigation by Europol, the European Union’s joint police body, found 380 suspicious matches in Europe and another 300 questionable games outside the continent, mainly in Africa, Asia and South and Central America.
“This is a sad day for European (soccer),” Rob Wainwright, the head of Europol, told a news conference. He said criminals were cashing in on soccer corruption “on a scale and in a way that threatens the very fabric of the game.”
Europol said 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals from at least 15 countries were involved in fixing the European soccer games dating back to 2008. The agency declined to name specific suspects, teams or games so as not to disrupt ongoing national police investigations.
It was unclear exactly how many of 680 games mentioned were previously known to have been tainted, but the very public announcement shed light on the murky underworld of match-fixers, who bet on fixed games to reap enormous profits around the globe.
The probe uncovered $10.9 million in betting profits and $2.7 million in bribes to players and officials and has already led to several prosecutions.
Those numbers are far lower than many previous estimates of the amount of cash involved in match-fixing and betting on rigged matches, but prosecutors said the amounts they named were what they could directly pin down through 13,000 emails, paper trails, phone records and computer records.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” said German investigator Friedhelm Althans, who also said two World Cup qualification matches in Africa and one in Central America were among those under suspicion.
Wainwright said while many fixed soccer matches were already known from criminal trials in Europe, the Europol investigation that began in July 2011 lifted the lid on the widespread involvement of organized crime in rigging games.
“This is the first time we have established substantial evidence that organized crime is now operating in the world of football,” he said. “(That) highlights a big problem for the integrity of football in Europe.”
He said a Singapore-based criminal network was involved in the match-fixing, spending up to $136,500 per match to bribe players and officials.
The global nature of the organized crime syndicates involved makes them hard to track down and prosecute. Europol said a single fixed match can involve up to 50 suspects in 10 different countries.
Europol said the criminal group behind most of the match-fixing was placing bets mainly in Asia.
“The ringleaders are of Asian origin, working closely together with European facilitators,” the organization said, but it added that “Russian-speaking” and other criminal gangs were also involved.
Wainwright said the soccer world needed a “concerted effort” now to tackle the corruption. He said he would be sending the results of the investigation to UEFA President Michel Platini.
UEFA, which oversees European soccer and organizes the Champions League, seemed surprised by the breadth of Europol’s accusations. It said it expected more information on the Europol investigation shortly.
“Once the details of these investigations are in UEFA’s hands, then they will be reviewed by the appropriate disciplinary bodies in order that the necessary measures are taken,” UEFA said in a statement.
Previous investigations have found that a World Cup qualifier between Liechtenstein and Finland in September 2009 was fixed by a referee from Bosnia, who UEFA banned for life.
Last year, UEFA expelled a Malta player implicated in fixing a European Championship qualifier between Norway and Malta in June 2007.
Women losing coverage under Obamacare, too
- Scalia to students on high taxes: At a certain point, 'perhaps you should revolt'
- Former Ranger breaks silence on Pat Tillman death: I may have killed him
- Special Forces' suicide rates hit record levels casualties of 'hard combat'
- Feds approve powdered alcohol; 'Palcohol' available later this year
- EDITORIAL: Mark Warner running scared?
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- EDITORIAL: More Lerner smoking-gun emails at IRS
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- Harry Reid blasts Bundy ranch supporters as 'domestic terrorists'
- 'Deport Bieber' petition draws no comment from White House
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.