Singapore silent on match-fixing kingpin

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Singapore_police Reuters Superintendent Ho Yenn Dar (left), assistant director of media relations of Singapore Police Force listens to questions from journalists on the international match-fixing scam.

Singapore – Singapore is working with European authorities investigating the fixing of soccer matches on a global scale but its silence on any action being taken against local suspects risks damaging the reputation of the wealthy, tightly regulated Asian country.

European investigators said this week they believe the results of hundreds of soccer matches were fixed at club and national level, with some of the key figures alleged to have run the bribery scam out of Singapore.

Interpol, the international police organisation, did not reply to questions from Reuters about the investigation in Singapore, saying it does not comment on specific cases.

But Interpol chief Ronald Noble told Singapore's Straits Times newspaper it would be wrong to assume “that only Asian organised crime is responsible for match-fixing in Europe and around the world”.

It would be unfortunate if Singapore's “well-earned anti-crime reputation” suffered from the allegations, he said in remarks published on Wednesday, but added the city-state must show it is serious about tackling the problem.

“Until arrests are made in Singapore and until actual names, dates and specific match-fixing details are given, these organised criminals will appear above the law and Singapore's reputation will continue to suffer,” Noble said.

In November, he had said: “In the near future, Singaporeans will be reading about arrests made here in Singapore.”

Police in the city-state said on Tuesday they “are assisting the European authorities in their investigations” and that “Singapore takes a strong stance against match-fixing”.

Beyond that, Singapore authorities have yet to say anything about the state or scope of the investigation, including whether they are pursuing the main suspect – identified by various media in 2011 – and others listed in Italian court documents.

This is not entirely surprising in a country where the government keeps a tight rein on information – and police may not want to jeopardise their case. But the lack of comment about a global scandal with roots in Singapore contrasts with this week's very public announcement by European investigators.

With the same party in power for five decades, Singapore has long projected itself as a paragon of good governance and clean living in a turbulent region often rife with corruption. But its links to the match-fixing illuminate a darker underside.

Having Singaporeans as key suspects in the scandal was “extremely shocking” but not a total surprise for Jerome, a 43-year-old transportation worker making legal bets on soccer matches at a state-run Singapore Pools outlet.

“I know it's still happening,” he said. “Like loan sharks, it's still happening, not being stopped yet.”

Chris Eaton, former head of security at soccer's governing body Fifa and now a director at the International Centre for Sport Security, said Singapore was “either being very cautious, very thorough or they don't have enough to go on”.

“I don't know why they appear to not be doing anything but I hope they are,” he said. “I'm sure they're doing their best to limit embarrassment. Now they're obligated to respond to the mounting international evidence against Singaporean gangs.” – Reuters


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