680 soccer matches may have been fixed
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Organized crime gangs have fixed or tried to fix hundreds of soccer matches around the world in recent years, including World Cup and European Championship qualifiers and two Champions League games, Europol announced Monday.
The European Union’s police agency said an 18-month review found 380 suspicious matches in Europe and another 300 questionable games outside the continent, mainly in Africa, Asia and South and Central America. It also found evidence that a Singapore-based crime syndicate was involved in some of the match-fixing.
Europol refused to name any suspected matches, players, officials or match-fixers, saying that would compromise ongoing national investigations, so it remained unclear how much of the information divulged Monday was new or had already been revealed in trials across the continent.
“This is a sad day for European football,” Europol Director Rob Wainwright told reporters. He said criminals were cashing in on soccer corruption “on a scale and in a way that threatens the very fabric of the game.”
Europol said 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals from at least 15 countries were involved in fixing European soccer games dating back to 2008.
Europol is not a police force but provides expertise and helps coordinate national police across the 27-nation European Union. It said 13 European countries were involved in this match-fixing investigation, pouring through 13,000 emails, paper trails, phone records and computer records.
Its probe uncovered 8 million ($10.9 million) in betting profits and 2 million ($2.7 million) in bribes to players and officials and has already led to several prosecutions.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” said German investigator Friedhelm Althans, who also said two World Cup qualification matches in Africa and one in Central America were among those under suspicion.
Wainwright said while many fixed soccer matches were already known from criminal trials in Europe, the Europol investigation lifted the lid on the widespread involvement.