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Match-fixing fight needs state support

EILEEN NG
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2013

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FIFA's head of security has warned that the fight against match-fixing will ultimately flounder without the full support of governments across the world.

Ralf Mutschke said he hoped a Singaporean businessman accused of heading a crime syndicate that made millions by betting on rigged Italian games will be brought before the courts with the help of Singaporean authorities.

Speaking at a conference yesterday in Malaysia co-hosted by Interpol and the Asian Football Confederation, Mutschke said referees and players were being banned for life for corruption but the masterminds of the crimes were walking free because of legislative weaknesses.

"We have to bring in the governments because they have to change legislations and laws, because a lot of countries do not have proper laws fighting match manipulation and corruption," he said.

"Talking is nice, but we have to come to a conclusion that it's time now for action."

The European Union's police agency reported earlier this month that organised crime gangs had fixed or tried to fix hundreds of football matches around the world in recent years.

Europol said its 18-month review found 380 suspicious matches in Europe and another 300 questionable games outside the continent, mainly in Africa, Asia and South and Central America. It also found evidence Asian crime groups were involved in some of the match-fixing.

Mutschke pointed to the case of Singaporean businessman Tan Seet Eng - known as Dan Tan - for whom Italian authorities have issued an arrest warrant but have been unable to take into custody because it cannot be served on him while he is in Asia.

He said FIFA would not sanction Singapore's football association, which is not responsible for arresting Tan.

Tan "needs to be brought to justice ... but it's out of our jurisdiction," Mutschke said.

"Why should FIFA punish the entire Singapore if it's a political problem? The problem has to be solved on a political level."

Singapore police have said the city state's authorities were reviewing information submitted by the Italians before deciding what to do.

Tan's former associate, Wilson Raj Perumal, has alleged to Italian investigators that Tan places syndicate wagers on fixed games using Asia-based online betting sites via intermediaries in China.

Mutschke said FIFA was working to ensure betting syndicates did not infiltrate the next World Cup in Brazil, and was providing special training for referees and teams, and setting up a round-the-clock hotline to report any irregularities.

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"Up to now, to the best of my knowledge, there was no World Cup infiltrated by organised crime," he said.

Zhang Jilong, who has been acting president of the Asian Football Confederation since former continental powerbroker Mohamed Bin Hammam was found guilty of vote-buying during his challenge against FIFA president Sepp Blatter in 2011 and later banned for life, acknowledged Asia had emerged as the financial hub for match-fixing syndicates and must make more effort to fight the scourge.

But, he said, "No continent is now left untouched by this disease. We will need joint efforts from all parties ... we have big stakes to see our game survive."

Mutschke's comments came as Football Association of Thailand president and longtime FIFA executive committee member Worawi Makudi readies to meet with officials from FIFA and Interpol at Kuala Lumpur today over allegations of match-fixing during last year's Thai FA Cup final.

Worawi said the AFC last week informed him of possible irregularities surrounding November's cup final between Buriram FC and Royal Thai Army after Japanese referee Yoshida Toshimitsu claimed he was offered bribes to favour one of the two teams.

Earlier this week, the Chinese Football Association stripped Shanghai Shenhua of its 2003 league title and fined it $US160,000 ($NZ190,000) as part of a new round of sanctions aimed at stamping out match fixing in the Chinese Super League.

The CFA banned 33 officials and players for life during its recently completed three-year investigation into corruption in the CSL.

In January, FIFA banned 41 players in South Korea for life due to match-fixing in the wake of the biggest corruption scandal ever to hit the region's oldest professional league.

- AP

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