Match-fixing probe: 680 suspicious games worldwide
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A wide-ranging match-fixing investigation has uncovered more than 680 suspicious matches - including World Cup and European Championship qualifiers and two Champions League games _ and found evidence that a Singapore-based crime group is closely involved in match-fixing, Europol said Monday.
The investigation by Europol, the European Union's joint police body, found 380 suspicious matches in Europe and another 300 questionable games outside the continent, mainly in Africa, Asia, South and Central America.
''This is a sad day for European (soccer),'' Rob Wainwright, the head of Europol, told a news conference. He said criminals are cashing in on soccer corruption on a scale and in a way that threatens the very fabric of the game.
Europol declined to name suspects, players, clubs, or officials involved so as not to prejudice ongoing investigations, and it was unclear exactly how many of the matches mentioned were previously known to have been tainted. Still, the very announcement shed light on a murky underworld of match-fixers and illegal betting spanning the globe.
The probe uncovered (euro) 8 million ($10.9 million) in betting profits and (euro) 2 million ($2.7 million) in bribes to players and officials and has already led to several prosecutions.
Those numbers are far lower than many estimates of the amount of cash involved in match-fixing and betting on rigged matches, but prosecutors said the amounts they named are what they can directly pin down through paper trails, phone records and computer records.
''This is the tip of the iceberg,'' said Friedhelm Althans, a German investigator.
Europol investigators analyzed 13,000 emails and other evidence and identified 425 players, criminals, match officials and club staff suspected of being involved in manipulating matches dating back several years.
Wainwright said the involvement of organized crime''highlights a big problem for the integrity of football in Europe.''