Behind football’s biggest fixing disclosure, the hand of a Singaporean of Tamil origin

Wislon Raj Perumal

At a press conference on Monday, the head of the European anti-crime agency Europol, Rob Wainwright, said that investigations had revealed more than 680 suspicious matches worldwide, including World Cup and European Championship qualifiers and a Champions League game played in England. Police said the biggest match-fixing scandal ever uncovered had been the handiwork of an organised crime syndicate run from Singapore.

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.

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