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.
Mutschke said that one of his inside informers had told him that many organised crime units were now moving out of the drugs trade and into match-fixing because it represents lower risk, higher profit and a perfect vehicle for money-laundering.
At a news conference in Rome last month, the secretary general of Interpol, Ron Noble, said that some of the syndicates generate revenues equivalent to that of a huge multinational. He suggested that the syndicates were operative worldwide, from Asia to Africa to Europe to North and South America.
Corruption No evidence of incidents in Ireland but FAI aware of threat
Although none of the matches cited by Europol as having been “fixed” is believed to have taken place in Ireland, the FAI’s competitions director Fran Gavin says the association are aware of the threat posed by corruption in the sport and that they work closely with Uefa on preventative measures.
Gavin, who doubles as the organisation’s “integrity officer”, says there have been two occasions in recent times on which betting patterns in advance of senior club games here set the alarm bells ringing and obliged the association to act.
In the most recent instance, a meeting between Shelbourne and Monaghan United a couple of years back, he informed the match officials and all of the players prior to kick-off the game was being monitored but neither the FAI nor Uefa, who looked at betting patterns internationally, found anything in the end to suggest there had been any impropriety .
“We’ve been fortunate but we’re not so naive as to believe that we couldn’t be targeted at some stage in the future,” said Gavin.
“There are well organised criminal gangs behind this problem and they could certainly decide to attempt something in Ireland at some stage.”
Gavin recently attended a conference in Rome where other associations’ integrity officers were joined by representatives of Fifa, Uefa, the police and the betting companies.
“There’s a lot of work going into combating this problem,” he says, “but even on the most basic level we believe we are making progress – there have been no instances of wages not being paid here recently, and that is something that might conceivably provide temptation for a player.”