Behind football’s biggest fixing disclosure, the hand of a Singaporean of Tamil origin
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It is believed that a significant amount of information in the Europol report could be from convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal. A Singaporean of Tamil origin, Perumal, 47, had rigged hundreds of games across five continents, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in gambling winnings for Asian and European syndicates, before deciding to switch sides in exchange for protective custody after he was arrested in Finland in February 2011.
Perumal, fluent in English with a trusted Singaporean passport, was the front man for a Chinese criminal syndicate. Media reports emerging from Singapore profile him as a petty criminal involved in many cases of housebreaking, theft, forgery and cheating. Perumal's first attempts at match-fixing were both ineffective and crude. He was first jailed for match-fixing in 1995 when found guilty of paying a football captain $3,000 to throw a game, and was convicted again in 2000 for attacking a player in Singapore's Woodlands Wellington team, in an attempt to harm the side's chances for a subsequent game. But with time, he was to turn into a smooth operator.
According to a report published by ESPN.com, Perumal perfected his scheme in the late 90s in Ghana and Zimbabwe, learning not just to bribe players but to also dupe entire federations. Representing a front company, Perumal would approach cash-starved national federations eager to play all-expenses-paid friendlies. "They welcome you with open arms. They don't realize what is hidden beneath," Perumal would later write to Singaporean journalist Zaihan Mohamed Yusof from a Finnish prison.
Perumal paid federations as much as $100,000 to arrange a friendly. He would set up the matches, promote them, and select the referees. With most friendlies not sanctioned by FIFA, all Perumal needed to do was find a stadium and pay a day's rent. The match-ups would feature a predetermined amount of red cards, penalty kicks and offside calls. Alongside referees, Perumal also bought players and coaches, paying upward of $5,000 per fix to players in Africa, Central America and the Middle East.
While Perumal was the front man, the syndicate itself was run by four bosses, led by a man named Dan Tan Seet Eng, the ESPN.com report said. Once the fix was set up, associates sat in front of computers placing as many bets — not more than $3,000 each — as they could. The wagers were kept small and spread across enough credit cards so as to not attract attention.
Perumal and the syndicate grew increasingly confident, staging 'ghost' matches like one between the U-21 teams from Turkmenistan and Maldives — which neither association was aware of. Perumal is also accused of fielding a fake national side from Togo in a rigged match against Bahrain in 2011, which they lost 0-3.
The Togo game, however, attracted plenty of media attention, and was the first in a series of sloppy mistakes Perumal made after incurring huge gambling debts. He started pocketing some of the money meant to set up the fix. When Dan Tan gave him 500,000 dollars to buy a club in Finland, where several fixes had been made, Perumal pocketed a large proportion. Police were tipped off ostensibly for a passport violation, probably by one of his associates. Angry over his treatment by the syndicate, Perumal began cooperating with authorities. His testimony led to Dan Tan being indicted by an Italian court in December 2011. After serving a one-year sentence in Finland, Perumal was turned over to Hungary, one in a long list of EU countries where he is wanted on match-fixing charges.
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