Two men charged over English match-fixing
Two men were charged Thursday with conspiracy to defraud as part of an investigation into a suspected Singapore-based international betting syndicate which allegedly fixed non-league football matches in England.
The National Crime Agency, which is leading the investigation, said a seventh person had also been arrested following an undercover operation by Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper. He has been released on bail with the four others.
Chann Sankaran, a 33-year-old Singapore national, and Krishna Sanjey Ganeshan, a 43-year-old with dual British and Singapore nationality, will appear at a magistrates' court in Cannock, central England, on Friday, the NCA said.
They have been charged with conspiring to defraud bookmakers "by influencing the course of football matches and placing bets thereon" between Nov. 1-26.
The maximum prison sentence for the offense is 10 years.
"The Crown Prosecution's Organised Crime Division found sufficient evidence and was satisfied it was in the public interest to authorize charges of conspiracy to defraud," the NCA said in a statement.
The Telegraph reported that three of the original six people arrested are footballers, with another reportedly a former Premier League player who is now an agent.
Games played in the fifth tier or lower of English football are the focus of the investigation, with the Premier League confirming Thursday that it has not been contacted by police in relation to the case.
The Football League, which runs the three professional divisions below the Premier League, has already said it has not been involved in the investigation.
The fifth-tier Football Conference said it is "aware" of the alleged match-fixing case.
"The Football Conference takes all matters relating to the integrity of the game very seriously," it said in a statement, "but it cannot make any comment on today's story as it would be inappropriate to do so."
The Telegraph's website published a covertly recorded video in which it says one of the fixers claimed matches could be fixed for 50,000 pounds ($81,380).
He also claimed to have connections with Wilson Raj Perumal, the Singaporean who was sentenced to two years in prison in Finland in 2011 for bribing players in the Finnish football league.
Match-fixing, fuelled by unregulated betting markets in Asia, is widely viewed by football's authorities as one of the biggest scourges on the game.
Europol, the European Union police liaison agency, said in February that it reviewed 680 suspicious recent cases of match-fixing but the organization's chief of media and PR, Soren Pedersen, said Thursday he was unable to comment on whether this latest case was linked to that investigation.
"Unfortunately, this is not a problem that has disappeared," Pedersen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "There's definitely enough for police still to do to look into this crime phenomenon."
The last major match-rigging convictions in English football were in the 1960s. Peter Swan, David 'Bronco' Layne and Tony Kay, who were all in or on the fringe of the England team, were jailed for four months and banned for life for corruption.
In 1994, three then-Premier League players - goalkeepers Bruce Grobbelaar and Hans Segers and striker John Fashanu - were alleged by a newspaper to have fixed matches. The trio was acquitted following two trials after juries were unable to reach a verdict.
And in 1999, four men linked to a Malaysian-based betting syndicate were jailed for three years for plotting to sabotage floodlights ahead of Charlton's match against Liverpool that year as part of a match-fixing plot.
"It's no surprise to see that it has hit the U.K.," Pedersen said of the latest global wave of match-fixing cases.
"It's not only south-east Asia that has problems, but Greece, Albania, Turkey and Italy of course. It's in central and northern Europe. Even a country like Finland, which is not normally linked to bribery or corruption, have had several cases. Also in Hungary, there are things going on. It's practically all over Europe."
One of the biggest recent alleged fixing plots was unearthed in Australia where four English players were charged in September in a criminal investigation. Before heading to Australia to play for the Melbourne club Southern Stars, the men played in England's lower leagues.