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Investigation Finds Suspected Fixing in 680 Soccer Matches

Director of Europol Rob Wainwright.
Georges Gobet | AFP | Getty Images
Director of Europol Rob Wainwright.

THE HAGUE — Criminal organizations have infiltrated the highest levels of European and international soccer, threatening the very integrity of the sport, global law enforcement officials said on Monday as they unveiled the results of a 19-month investigation that showed that hundreds of people had been involved in match-fixing.

At least 425 people from more than 15 countries — including club and match officials, and current and former players — are suspected of conspiring to fix hundreds of matches on behalf of Asian criminal syndicates that made millions of dollars in profits by betting on the results, they said.

Those matches included qualifying games for both the World Cup and the European Cup, and two Champions League matches, including one in England.

"This is a sad day for European football, and more evidence of the corrupting influence of organized crime," said Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, which helped coordinate the investigation among European Union member states, Interpol and non-European nations.

Citing the doping scandal that has undermined public trust and interest in cycling, Mr. Wainwright warned that the problem must be tackled quickly or soccer would lose the trust of the public.

In all, 680 matches have been identified as suspect, officials said, including 300 outside Europe, primarily in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

It was not immediately clear how many of the matches identified were already known to the public or were the result of new discoveries.

Officials declined to identify any of the teams or individuals involved in the investigations, citing the need to guard the confidentiality of police procedures.

The officials, speaking to journalists at Europol headquarters, said that a joint team was created in July 2011 after investigators in several European countries came to realize that there was a major overlap between suspects in separate match-fixing inquiries.

A single criminal group, based in Asia, is behind most of the matches identified in the investigations, Europol and Interpol officials said, and an international arrest warrant has been issued seeking the extradition of the ringleader to Europe to face fraud and bribery charges.

Europol did not publicly identify the ringleader of the gang, but several knowledgeable law enforcement officials later said on the condition of anonymity that it was a Singapore-based man, known as Dan Tan. Mr. Tan has been implicated in match-fixing cases dating back at least to 1999, the officials said.

Asked about the level of international cooperation Europol was getting from other national authorities involved in enforcement of the warrant, Mr. Wainwright said, "I'm satisfied that Interpol is in active dialogue" with the other parties. "It's important that all international arrest warrants are pursued."

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