Report finds Champions League tie in England among games fixed
SOCCER:Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, says the “very fabric of the game” is threatened by the increasing involvement of organised crime in football match fixing. Presenting a major investigation, codenamed Operation Veto, in The Hague yesterday, the Director of Europol, Rob Wainwright, said that the findings of the report represented “a sad day for European football”.
Led by Europol, with input from Interpol and from police in Germany, Finland, Hungary, Austria and Slovenia, Operation Veto ran from July 2011 to January 2013. The investigation has uncovered “an extensive criminal network”, comprising 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals from more than 15 countries involved in attempts to fix 380 professional football matches with a further 300 matches worldwide identified as being suspicious.
Arrests and convictions
Europol point out that their investigation, which co-ordinated “multiple police inquiries across Europe” and involved the analysis of 13,000 emails, has led to arrests and convictions, with 14 people in Germany being sentenced to a total of 39 years in prison. Wainwright also said that the match fixing investigated by Europol had been “run out of Singapore”, had generated €8 million in profits and had involved €2 million in bribes, adding: “This is a sad day for European football and more evidence of the corrupting influence in society of organised crime . . . 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.”
Champions League tie
Intriguingly,Wainwright also claimed that a Champions League tie played in England sometime in the last four years had been fixed adding, however, that he could not reveal the identity of the game in question because it is currently subject to “ongoing judicial proceedings”. He did say, though, that it would be “naive and complacent” for anyone to imagine that the English game will not be touched by such a powerful criminal conspiracy.
Even though analysts have long argued that crime syndicates like to strike at lower, more impoverished levels of football, Wainwright claimed that World Cup and European Championship qualifiers as well as two Champions League ties and several top league games had featured in the enquiry. Europol’s investigation appears to confirm the recent findings of both Interpol and of world governing body Fifa. Last month, Fifa head of security, Ralf Mutschke, a man with 33 years experience in the German police force, told Reuters that he believed that at least 50 leagues around the world are being targeted by organised crime syndicates.