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Europol launch Europe match-fixing investigation

According to investigators, an unnamed Champions League match in England is believed to have been fixed. Picture: Getty

According to investigators, an unnamed Champions League match in England is believed to have been fixed. Picture: Getty

  • by RORY REYNOLDS
 

A MAJOR football match played in England is one of 380 games across the continent currently being investigated as part of a massive match-fixing inquiry.

• One unnamed Champions League fixture in England is one of 380 matches in Europe investigators believe was fixed by an Asia-based crime syndicate

• The UK is ‘not under particular scrutiny’ and match took place in the last three to four years

• UEFA to co-operate with investigation

Europol, the European Union’s law-enforcement agency, has launched the “biggest-ever investigation into suspected match-fixing in Europe” in which 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals are suspected of being involved.

The Champions League fixture in England has not been identified, due to “ongoing judicial proceedings”, but the game was played in the past three or four years.

Investigators believe the result was fixed by an Asia-based crime syndicate, along with World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, and “several top football matches in European leagues”.

Rob Wainwright, director of Europol said at a press conference in The Hague that the syndicate had linked up with criminal networks in Europe to perpetrate the crimes.

He said: “This is the work of a suspected organised crime syndicate based in Asia and operated with criminal networks around Europe.

“It is clear to us this is the biggest-ever investigation into suspected match-fixing in Europe. It has yielded major results which we think have uncovered a big problem for the integrity of football in Europe.

“We have uncovered an extensive criminal network.”

Mr Wainwright revealed the scale of the corruption in Germany, where £13.8 million was wagered on matches with payments of £1.73m believed to have gone to those involved.

Most cases have been discovered in Germany where 14 people have already been jailed for a total of 39 years.

Criminal convictions have also been secured in Finland, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria.Europol believes a crime syndicate based in Singapore had been liaising with criminal networks throughout Europe, adding that match-fixing had taken place in 15 countries and 50 people had so far been arrested.

One example involved bribing Hungarian referees to swing matches they were officiating at around the world.

While Mr Wainwright would not reveal the particular Champions League match staged in England, he revealed the UK was not under particular scrutiny.

He added: “The focus has been on other countries, not the United Kingdom. However, we were surprised by the scale generally of the criminal enterprise and just how widespread it was.

“It would be naive and complacent of those in the UK to think such a criminal conspiracy does not involve the English game and all the football in Europe.”

In addition to the 380 matches in Europe, a further 300 in Africa, Asia and south and central America are under suspicion. Officials fear this is the tip of the iceberg.

Investigators have described one network involving couriers ferrying bribes around the world, paying off players and referees in the fixing.

Laszlo Angeli, a Hungarian prosecutor, gave an example of how the scam worked.

“The Hungarian member, who was immediately below the Singapore head, was in touch with Hungarian referees who could then attempt to swing matches at which they officiated around the world,” he said.

Accomplices would then place bets on the internet or by phone with bookmakers in Asia, where wagers that would be illegal in Europe were accepted.

Uefa has a zero-tolerance approach to match-fixing and added in a statement: “We are aware of the statements made by Europol regarding the alleged match-fixing in various football competitions and expect to receive further information in the coming days.

 

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