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Crooks’ Assault On World Football

  • February 5th, 2013
  • Posted by EUEditor

football-match-fixing_0.jpgThe Europol police agency has sourced a betting ring engaged in massive Football match-fixing, to a Singapore-based gambling cartel, with Russian participants and European “facilitators”.

Its announcement this week, on the result of investigations, indicates illicit betting profits exceeding €8-million (A$10.4-million; xe.com, 5.2.13), with bent players or officials getting a quarter of it; and it has found the misconduct at all levels of club and national teams competitions, including the European Cup and Champions’ League, and World Cup qualifiers.

A total of 380 soccer matches were compromised in Europe, and 300 others, in Africa, Asia or Latin America.

Apart from concern now for all national sides, or club sides overseas, there has been no mention of the A League or other Australian competition. (On the other hand, investigators who have this week disclosed evidence of a massive incidence of doping in Australian sport, with the involvement of organised crime, have pointed to intense interest in A League matches on legal gambling networks, coming from Asia).

The Europol investigation was carried out with the support of the custodians of the “beautiful game” in Europe, the football association UEFA; and has been some time in the works.

The incident highlights the growing prevalence of organised criminal activity in global economic life and the evolution of world society.

A blitz on Football crooks was foreshadowed five years ago, see EUAustralia Online, “Crime: Not always straight and narrow”, 20.12.07:

“EUROPOL SETS UP FOR ANOTHER GOAL

“After its success breaking up an international pedophiles ring, together with Australian police (See EUAusrtralia, Operation Koala; Child Pornography Arrests, 6.11.07), Europol has turned its attention to corruption and fraud on the sacred turf of European Football.

“The Dutch-based EU police agency says it has been working with the football authority, UEFA, on the problem of match fixing.

“It has issued a statement confirming its interest in the multi-billion-Euro industry: “The phenomenon of game fixing in organised sports is one of the areas that Europol has on the radar as a crime on the increase…”

FULL TEXT OF 2013 ANNOUNCEMENT


The following is the statement published by Europol this week:

europol-logo-enlarge1.jpgResults from the largest football match-fixing investigation in Europe

The Hague, the Netherlands
4 February 2013

A major investigation involving Europol and police teams from 13 European countries has uncovered an extensive criminal network involved in widespread football match-fixing. A total of 425 match officials, club officials, players, and serious criminals, from more than 15 countries, are suspected of being involved in attempts to fix more than 380 professional football matches. The activities formed part of a sophisticated organised crime operation, which generated over €8 million in betting profits and involved over €2 million in corrupt payments to those involved in the matches.

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT), codenamed Operation VETO, ran between July 2011 and January 2013. Led by Europol, Germany, Finland, Hungary, Austria and Slovenia, it was also supported by Eurojust, Interpol and investigators from eight other European countries. The investigation coordinated multiple police enquiries across Europe and was facilitated by intelligence reports from Europol, based on the analysis of 13,000 emails and other material, which identified links between matches and suspects and uncovered the nature of the organised crime network behind the illegal activities. The investigation has since led to several prosecutions in the countries involved, including Germany where 14 persons have already been convicted and sentenced to a total of 39 years in prison.

“This is a sad day for European football and more evidence of the corrupting influence in society of organised crime. But this investigation also proves the value of international police cooperation in fighting back against the criminals involved. Europol and its law enforcement partners are committed to pursuing serious criminals wherever they operate. Unfortunately this also now includes the world of football, where illegal profits are made on a scale and in a way that threatens the very fabric of the game. All those responsible for running football should heed the warnings found in this case,” says Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol. He also confirmed that he will be sharing the results of the investigation with UEFA President, Michel Platini.

Among the 380 or more suspicious matches identified by this case are World Cup and European Championship qualification matches, two UEFA Champions League matches and several top-flight matches in European national leagues. In addition another 300 suspicious matches were identified outside Europe, mainly in Africa, Asia, South and Central America.

“We have evidence for 150 of these cases and the operations were run out of Singapore with bribes of up to 100 000 euros paid per match. Even two World Championship Qualification matches in Africa, and one in Central America, are under suspicion,” says Fridhelm Althans from Bochum Police, Germany, and a spokesman for JIT Veto. This information will be shared with Interpol for further action in the context of its long-term efforts to work with a broad community around the world to crack down on this problem.

“Match fixing is a global issue requiring strong partnerships at the national, regional and international levels not only to target and dismantle the criminal networks making millions in illicit profits, but also to implement training programmes to better protect all those involved in football,” said Mr Gianni Baldi, Head of Interpol’s Drugs and Organised Crime Unit.

The organised criminal group behind most of these activities has been betting primarily on the Asian market. The ringleaders are of Asian origin, working closely together with European facilitators. During the investigation, links were also found to Russian-speaking and other criminal syndicates.

The international nature of match-fixing, exposed in this case, presents a major challenge to investigators and prosecutors.  One fixed match can involve up to 50 suspects in 10 countries, spanning different legal frameworks and definitions of match-fixing and betting fraud.

Ms Michèle Coninsx, President of Eurojust, commented: “International cooperation was the key to the success of this challenging cross-border case, involving more than 30 countries. Coordination meetings at Eurojust, including video conferences with Asian counterparts, facilitated the opening of new investigations and the resolution of complex judicial issues. Eurojust provided access to funding for JIT Veto, one of the largest JITs in history.” The successful outcome of JIT Veto proves both the added value of Eurojust and the JIT Funding Project, which in 2012 financed 62 different JITs involving 22 Member States.

JIT Veto investigations are still ongoing.

… statement ends //


Reference

Europol, The Hague, “Results from the largest football match-fixing investigation in Europe”, 4.2.13. https://www.europol.europa.eu/content/results-largest-football-match-fixing-investigation-europe, (5.2.13).

Pictures Europol

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