Organised criminals are infiltrating Irish sports clubs in order to fix matches, Garda fraud detectives have warned.
The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau said on Tuesday it was conducting multiple ongoing investigations into suspected match fixing.
It is one of several categories of corruption and bribery investigations currently being undertaken by the Bureau’s Anti-Corruption and Bribery Unit which was established in 2017 to investigate both foreign and domestic corruption.
Det Supt Catharina Gunne said gangs were attempting “to infiltrate themselves into clubs and teams” to rig matches by having a key player deliberately underperform “to ensure a match or a game goes a certain way”.
Organised criminals are using these fixed matches both to “gain illicit funds” and to launder money. The corrupt bets were typically made through unregulated betting channels, she said.
“We’re involved in investigations but we can’t go into details as they’re active investigations,” Det Supt Gunne added.
Among the investigations launched by the bureau is one into suspected match fixing in the League of Ireland. This was launched after it detected unusual betting patterns during a match in 2019.
Det Sgt Daniel McGinty said bribery did not have to involve money being handed over, and that even the offering or request of a bribe constituted an offence of corruption.
Under the offence of corruption in public office, it was not required for a public official to be paid a bribe, he said. “The public official just has to make a corrupt act in their office which benefits someone else.
“That could be interfering in a procurement process to ensure a particular company they favour gets a contract unfairly.”
Bribes “can also be favours and influences. And if you’re talking about a public official, it doesn’t necessarily have to benefit themselves,” he added.
Corruption and bribery offences can also involve private companies. It was vital company management set the tone from the top that bribery was not acceptable, Det Insp Mel Smith said.
Most corruption cases investigated by the unit had an overseas dimension, which could slow down the already-complex cases, the detectives said.
“Brown envelopes” were a thing of the past, said Det Sgt McGinty. Bribes to companies were typically disguised as agency or consultancy fees, he said.
Det Supt Gunne said Ireland was considered the 13th "cleanest country" in the world by Transparency International. However, she warned it was important not to become complacent.
Det Chief Supt Pat Lordan said tackling corruption was vital to maintain Ireland's reputation and ensure the continued flow of foreign direct investment.
"Bribery and corruption are not acceptable in Irish society or when conducting business abroad and An Garda Síochána is committed to proactively investigating offences of this nature," Det Supt Gunne said.