IT HAS BEEN alleged that a Champions League game involving Liverpool was fixed.
Europol said on Monday that a five-country probe had identified some 380 suspicious matches targeted by a Singapore-based betting cartel, whose illegal activities stretched to players, referees and officials across the world and at all levels of the game.
Matches included two Champions League games, one of them in England, and World Cup qualifiers, netting criminals more than €8 million in profit.
And The Daily Telegraph has reported that, according to Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, Liverpool’s tie with Hungarian side Debrecen at Anfield in September 2009 was one of the matches which is being investigated.
Rafael Benitez’s side earned a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Dirk Kuyt and while the Liverpool players are not suspected to have played any part in the illegal activity, goalkeeper Vukasin Poleksic was banned for two years after failing to report match-fixing when Debrecen faced Italian side Fiorentina in the same year.
On Monday, Europol director Rob Wainwright told a news conference in The Hague: “Match-fixing is a significant threat to football… involving a broad community of actors. Illegal profits are being made that threatens the very fabric of the game.”
World governing body FIFA said closer cooperation was needed between football’s authorities and law enforcement agencies to crack down on match-fixers.
“FIFA and the football community are committed to tackling this problem, but we will not succeed alone,” said FIFA’s own “corruption buster” Ralph Mutschke, a former Interpol executive and police officer.
“The support of law enforcement bodies, legal investigations, and ultimately tougher sanctions are required, as currently there is low risk and high gain potential for the fixers.”
European governing body UEFA for its part said it was already working with the authorities “on these serious matters as part of its zero tolerance policy towards match-fixing in our sport.
“Once the details of these investigations are in UEFA’s hands, then they will be reviewed by the appropriate disciplinary bodies in order that the necessary measures are taken,” it added in a statement.
Monday’s revelations come after Interpol last month warned that global football corruption was helping to fuel the criminal underworld’s domination of prostitution, drug-trafficking and gun-running and in the wake of several high-profile scandals.
The global policing body’s chief Ronald Noble said last November it expected to make arrests in Singapore over last year’s Italian illegal betting scandal after links were suspected between one suspect and crimelord Tan Seet Eng or Dan Tan.
As part of investigations, which involved investigators in Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Finland and Austria, 14 people have already been sentenced to a total of 39 years in prison, Europol said, with more than 100 prosecutions still expected.
-- © AFP, 2012 (additional reporting by Ben Blake)