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Worldwide probe uncovers 680 suspicious soccer games

The SportsXchange

Europe's union joint police body announced Monday that it uncovered more than 680 suspicious soccer matches and evidence that a crime gang is involved in fixing matches after an investigation.

Some of the matches included World Cup and European Championship qualifiers and two Champions League games and the crime association is based in Singapore, according to Europol.

The investigation by Europol concluded that 380 of the suspicious matches were European matches and the other 300 were mostly in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America.

"This is a sad day for European (soccer)," Rob Wainwright, the head of Europol, told reporters.

He added that criminals were making money on soccer corruption "on a scale and in a way that threatens the very fabric of the game."

Participation in the corruption included 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals from at least 15 countries who were involved in fixing the games as far back as 2008, according to Europol. It would not name specific suspects, teams or games because of ongoing national police investigations.

The investigation found nearly $11 million worth of betting profits and $2.7 million in bribes to players and officials that have already led to several prosecutions.

The amounts are much lower than what was expected to be found as evidence was collected through 13,000 emails, paper trails, phone records and computer records.

"This is the tip of the iceberg," said German investigator Friedhelm Althans.

He added that two World Cup qualifiers in Africa and one in Central America were among the suspected games.

Wainwright said the match-fixing by a Singapore-based criminal network spent up to $136,500 per match to bribe players and officials. But the global aspect of the organized crime syndicates involved makes it difficult to find them and to prosecute. A fixed match can possibly involve up to 50 suspects in 10 different countries, according to Europol. Most of the betting was done in Asia.

"The ringleaders are of Asian origin, working closely together with European facilitators," Europol said in a statement. It added that "Russian-speaking" and other crime gangs were involved.

Prior investigations uncovered that a World Cup qualifier played between Liechtenstein and Finland in September 2009 was fixed, as well as a European Championship qualifier between Norway and Malta in June 2007.
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