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Sports

FIFA to give Interpol 20 million euros to fight match-fixing

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-05-09

FIFA President Sepp Blatter (pictured) announced on Monday that the body would donate 20 million euros to Interpol in an effort to battle the growing threat of match-fixing and illegal betting.

AP - FIFA has pledged to spend 20 million euros (29 million dollars) and forge closer ties with Interpol to crack down on the growing threat of football match-fixing and betting fraud.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Monday it will fund anti-corruption programs over 10 years to educate players, referees and officials worldwide.

Blatter said match-fixing threatened fans’ faith in the sport.

“If they cannot believe any longer (in) football because matches are fixed, then in such a case FIFA would lose all credibility,” he told reporters.

The project - funded by the biggest private donation ever received by Interpol - will operate from the international agency’s new base in Singapore.

Singapore has emerged in recent months as a common link in match-fixing scandals, including international friendly matches set up purely for betting scams.

In one highly publicized case, a Feb. 9 double-header played in Antalya, Turkey - involving Latvia, Bolivia, Bulgaria and Estonia - saw all seven goals scored from penalties. FIFA has charged six match officials from Hungary and Bosnia, but the organizer from Singapore has not been traced.

Blatter and Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble signed the agreement at FIFA headquarters after meeting detectives leading ongoing probes in Finland and Germany.

Both organizations have limited investigative powers and must rely on governments and law enforcement agencies to pursue cases.

Blatter said FIFA’s decision to reach out for help marked a “historical day.”

“It is crucial for us to go together with political authorities and police authorities to fight those that want to destroy our game,” the FIFA president said.

Noble said online betting and match-fixing offered a “perfect mix” for international organized crime syndicates.

“It’s high profit, a low risk of getting caught, with very low penalties,” Noble said. “Just about every act that occurs in a match is the opportunity to make a huge amount of profits.”

Europe’s biggest ever match-fixing investigation is being conducted by German police in Bochum who have investigated 300 people and 300 suspect games, including a World Cup qualifying match.

Bribes worth 1.7 million euros have been paid to players, referees and officials but the sum is “just the tip of the iceberg,” said Freidhelm Althans, who is leading the Bochum probe.

“We have indeed seen there is a worldwide network of people active in this field,” Althans said.

Finland became the focus in February when police arrested a second Singaporean businessman linked to match-fixing claims in the Finnish league and Asia.

Lead investigator Jouko Ikonen said the first players were convicted in court last week, and more cases would follow in June.

“It was still quite a new phenomenon to us and that’s why it’s really difficult for us,” Ikonen said.

Noble said increased media reporting of suspicious matches had prompted FIFA and Interpol to act.

“We needed to do something to make sure the public realizes that this is a problem that’s long-term,” the Interpol boss said. “It’s a problem that’s going to require law enforcement to train those groups most likely to be targeted.”
 

Date created : 2011-05-09

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