Police investigating match-fixing in English football have made six arrests in a probe centered on a suspected international betting syndicate, authorities said today.
The arrests follow an undercover investigation by Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, which reported that at least three of the men held this week are footballers.
The Telegraph published a covertly recorded video in which it alleges a fixer said lower league matches in England could be fixed for 50,000 pounds ($81,380). Premier League matches are not reported to be the target of the fixers.
"Six men have been arrested across the country as part of an NCA investigation into alleged football match fixing," Britain's National Crime Agency said in a statement. "The focus of the operation is a suspected international illegal betting syndicate."
The recently-launched NCA said during the "active investigation" it is working with the Gambling Commission and the English Football Association.
At meetings in Manchester this month, the Telegraph said one of the alleged fixers - a Singaporean man - correctly predicted how many goals would be scored during a match the next day, and offered to manipulate two British matches this month.
The man told the paper's investigator in a video that he would say to a footballer: "You tell me how many goals you can give."
"Either 3-2, 4-1 or zero," he added in broken English. "I say I don't need five. For me four is enough ... if more than that up to you. But my deal is four ... I don't want less than four."
The alleged fixer is heard claiming he has a betting website, stressing: "We can bet (on) those goals."
He also claims he can pay a player about 5,000 pounds ($8,140) to ensure he is booked in the first ten minutes of a match, an indication that the game is being fixed.
The Telegraph said it was approached by an "undercover investigator with links to FIFA, who had been gathering evidence against suspected Asian match fixers offering to operate in Britain."
The integrity of football has moved up the agenda since Europol, the European Union police liaison agency, said it reviewed 680 suspicious recent cases of match-fixing, including some World Cup games.
The fight against match-fixing appeared to have been boosted by the arrest in September of 14 people in Singapore, including Dan Tan, who has been accused of coordinating a global crime syndicate that made millions of dollars betting on rigged Italian matches and other games across the world.