Match-fixing probe: 680 suspicious games worldwide

The Hague (Netherlands):  A wide-ranging match-fixing investigation has uncovered more than 680 suspicious games, including World Cup and European Championship qualifiers and two Champions League games, and found evidence that a Singapore-based crime gang is closely involved in match-fixing, Europol said today.

The investigation by Europol, the European Union's joint police body, found 380 suspicious matches in Europe and another 300 questionable games outside the continent, mainly in Africa, Asia and South and Central America.

"This is a sad day for European (soccer)," Rob Wainwright, the head of Europol, told a news conference. He said criminals were cashing in on soccer corruption "on a scale and in a way that threatens the very fabric of the game."

Europol said 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals from at least 15 countries were involved in fixing the European soccer games dating back to 2008. The agency declined to name specific suspects, teams or games so as not to disrupt ongoing national police investigations.

It was unclear exactly how many of 680 games mentioned were previously known to have been tainted, but the very public announcement shed light on the murky underworld of match-fixers, who bet on fixed games to reap enormous profits around the globe.

The probe uncovered a USD 10.9 million in betting profits and USD 2.7 million in bribes to players and officials and has already led to several prosecutions.

Those numbers are far lower than many previous estimates of the amount of cash involved in match-fixing and betting on rigged matches, but prosecutors said the amounts they named were what they could directly pin down through 13,000 emails, paper trails, phone records and computer records.

"This is the tip of the iceberg," said German investigator Friedhelm Althans, who also said two World Cup qualification matches in Africa and one in Central America were among those under suspicion.