Friday, 6 May 2011

How fair is football: Match fixer was working within a mile of Wembley

Individuals from SIX national football associations are being investigated after a convicted match-fixer was found operating from a base near Wembley Stadium.

Wilson Raj Perumal, from Singapore, has been probed by Interpol and FIFA over his ability to influence the results of international and club matches around the world over the past three years.

The Daily Telegraph reports Perumal, arrested in Finland in February, had been working within a mile of the “home of football” in London, where the Champions League final will take place between Barcelona and Manchester United on May 28.

Fifa’s head of security Chris Eaton, a former Interpol operative said: “England is the home of football and London is a global financial centre so it does not surprise me that the financial aspects of this activity lead to London.

“The threat from match-fixing to the integrity of the global game is significant.

“Interviews with those involved have told us that that fixers can spend upwards of $300,000 (£182,000) to stage a friendly international and they do that with the expectation of a significant profit margin. Our information is that we are talking about tens of millions of dollars in profit from each successful fix.”

In 2009, Perumal was named as having arranged a number of games played by Zimbabwe in south-east Asia, some of which the Zimbabwe FA believe were fixed.

He was also behind the international friendly between Bahrain and “Togo” last year when the African side lost 3-0... and turned out to be a band of disparate players rather than the Togan national squad (pictured above).

Perumal is currently on remand in Finland after being arrested on February 25. He was picked up by immigration officers but is now under investigation for his involvement in alleged match-fixing in the Finnish domestic league.

FIFA and Interpol are believed to have evidence casting doubt over the result of nearly 300 matches over the past three years with referees being influenced by payments of £6,000 (R66,000) with Perumal’s men then allegedly tipping off gamblers in the Asian betting syndicates.

The London base provides “cover for the flow of funds through legal and illegal channels” according to the Paul Kelso’s special report in the Telegraph yesterday.

The FIFA under-17 and under-20 World Cups, due to be held during the summer in central America, could both be influenced.

Eaton added: “We have admissions from those we are focusing on that they have been planning to target younger players at the under-17 and under-20 level.

“That is enough to make me concerned that we need to put preventative measures in place.”

The Fifa investigation centres on Raj Perumal, who until February operated from a flat in a new apartment block in the Wembley City development, within sight of the distinctive arch of the national stadium.

Perumal, convicted for match-fixing in 1995, has also been found guilty of “theft and violence” in Singapore – he fled there in July last year after he was sentenced to five years’ “corrective training” in jail for driving his car over a police officer.

He is being held in Finland on suspicion of bribing players to fix matches and in connection with an attempt to pay $300,000 to a Finnish club. Eleven players have been arrested and face charges.

Perumal’s flat, in the Quadrant Court development at Wembley, was raided by officers from the Metropolitan Police in March following a request from the Finnish police.

The flat was empty when police raided it. Chandra Ratna, an associate of Perumal, told The Daily Telegraph that he had been asked to clear the flat by Perumal and said that he had thrown its contents away.

Telephone records seized by Finnish police are understood to reveal that Perumal has a “wide network” of contacts in world football – including 60 listed contacts in the UK including current and former international players.

High on the list of suspicious games are two internationals held in the Turkish resort of Antalya.

All seven goals in the games between Bolivia and Latvia, and Estonia and Bulgaria, were penalties with betting patterns indicating a “fix”.

Six officials – three from Hungary and three from Bosnia - have been banned for life.

Both games were set up by Perumal’s compatriot, Anthony Santia Raj.

As Perumal languishes in Finland, Germany is preparing for sentencing in their largest ever match-fixing trial.

Ante Sapina, a Croatian jailed for bribing a German referee in 2006, is one of seven defendants charged with fixing 47 matches including games in several European leagues, the qualifying rounds of the Champions League and a World Cup qualifier.

He is expected to receive a sentence of around six years.

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