Italian prosecutor hopes to question fixing leader

ANDREW DAMPF (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

ROME (AP) -- The Italian prosecutor leading an inquiry into international match-fixing said Thursday he would like to question the suspected ringleader arrested in Singapore.

The global network's suspected mastermind was among 14 people taken into custody in Singapore in what appears to be a major breakthrough in the battle against corruption in soccer.

''It's big news,'' Cremona prosecutor Roberto Di Martino told The Associated Press. ''It shows that our inquiry means something on an international level.

''Now we need to explore the diplomatic channels to see what we can do,'' Di Martino added. ''I'm not sure if our treaties permit (extradition). Plus, these arrests appear to also be linked to their (Singapore's) own investigation. Others have been arrested, too, including women, that don't appear to have anything to do with our inquiry. I think there are some elements from our inquiry involved, and some from theirs.''

Singapore police and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau said in a joint statement that authorities arrested 12 men and two women in raids lasting 12 hours across the city-state, ending early Tuesday.

Interpol, the police body based in Lyon, France, confirmed the arrests in a statement released late Wednesday.

A high-level police official told the AP that those arrested include Tan Seet Eng, widely known as Dan Tan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the detention publicly. Prosecutors in Italy have accused Dan Tan of coordinating a global crime syndicate that made millions of dollars betting on rigged Italian matches and other games across the world.

''He's the leader, the general director of the ring,'' Di Martino said, adding that his office sent an international request for Dan Tan's arrest ''three or four months ago.''

The police official added that Dan Tan's arrest was the result of a months-long investigation in Singapore by authorities there and was not in response to arrest requests from foreign law enforcement bodies.

That could be significant because it opens the possibility that Tan could be brought to justice in Singapore, thus avoiding potential extradition problems. Singapore, for instance, has no extradition treaty with Italy, where prosecutors allege that Tan was deeply involved with match-fixing there.

Di Martino has heard nothing from Interpol or anyone else over the arrests.

''I've had no official communication,'' he said. ''Nobody told me officially that Tan Seet Eng was arrested. But that's evident from what is written in the Interpol statement.''

The Singapore authorities did not formally name any of the people taken into custody, but said the ''suspected leader'' and several others wanted in other jurisdictions for suspected match-fixing were among those in custody.

Italian prosecutors investigating dozens of league and cup games they say were fixed had followed a trail back to Tan in Singapore. In court documents which laid out their findings, prosecutors alleged that Tan is the boss of a crime syndicate that allegedly made millions betting on rigged Italian games between 2008 and late 2011, through bribing players, referees and club officials.

Italian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Tan and listed him as their No. 1 suspect, but have been unable to take him into custody.

Still, at least 50 people have been arrested in Italy for match-fixing since mid-2011, with matches under investigation by prosecutors in Cremona, Bari and Naples. And point penalties have been handed out by the Italian soccer federation for three straight years, with four Serie A clubs penalized last season.

The Singapore police statement said the suspects are being investigated for match-fixing offenses under Singapore's Prevention of Corruption Act and for involvement in organized crime.

The detainees are being held under a law that potentially allows Singapore's government to hold suspects without trial for up to 12 months, a detention period that can be extended. Introduced in 1955, that law has been used against suspected drug traffickers, illegal money-lenders and criminal gang members, especially in cases involving insufficient evidence for prosecution.


AP Sports Writer John Leicester in Paris and Associated Press writers Ansley Ng in Singapore and Sean Yoong in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.

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