680 football matches under match-fixing cloud
London: Europol has revealed that 680 football matches across the globe are under suspicion of match-fixing, following a lengthy investigation into what it considers a criminal network within the sport.
A total of 425 players, officials and other individuals are suspected of being involved in an organised crime syndicate based in Asia, which is thought to have been organising the operation to rig the results of matches.
Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, says the allegations included two Champions League fixtures, one of which was played in England in the last two or three years, though they did not name the matches in question.
He told a press conference in Netherlands: "This is the work of a suspected organised crime syndicate based in Asia and operated with criminal networks around Europe.
"It is clear to us this is the biggest-ever investigation into suspected match-fixing in Europe. It has yielded major results which we think have uncovered a big problem for the integrity of football in Europe.
"We have uncovered an extensive criminal network."
Criminals wagered €16 million on fixed matches and recorded an €8m profit, the investigation has revealed.
Payments of €2m have been made to those involved in the scheme, with the biggest single such sum to an individual totalling €140,000.
The Asia-based syndicate is believed to have liaised with criminal networks throughout Europe, with match-fixing believed to have occurred in 15 different countries.
Friedhelm Althans from Bochum Police, Germany, and a spokesperson for JIT Veto, said: "We have evidence for 150 of these cases and the operations were run out of Singapore with bribes of up to €100,000 paid per match. Even two World Cup qualifiers in Africa, and one in Central America are under suspicion."
So far, 50 people have been arrested, with officials stating their concern that the news was simply "the tip of the iceberg".
Wainwright said that Europol`s findings would be shared with Uefa president Michel Platini, adding: "This is a sad day for European football and more evidence of the corrupting influence in society of organised crime. But this investigation also proves the value of international police co-operation in fighting back against the criminals involved.
"Europol and its law enforcement partners are committed to pursuing serious criminals wherever they operate. Unfortunately this also now includes the world of football, where illegal profits are made on a scale and in a way that threatens the very fabric of the game.
"All those responsible for running football should heed the warnings found in this case."
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