ROME // Assertions by authorities that tackling match fixing in football will be a long and complex process have been rejected by a leading expert on corruption in the game, who says the arrest of one person will make a difference.
Declan Hill, an author and investigative journalist who believes gangs avoid detection by fixing the betting exchanges as well as matches, has called on authorities to arrest Tan Seet Eng, also known as Dan Tan, who he says is an alleged major "fixer" in Singapore.
On Monday, the European anti-crime agency Europol said about 680 suspicious matches including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championship, and the Uefa Champions League for top European club sides, have been identified in an inquiry by European police forces and national prosecutors.
"There's an effort to say that taking on match fixing is a complicated, sophisticated activity that involves taking on dark, mysterious figures," said Hill, the author of The Fix: Soccer and Organised Crime. "We know the fixer. There's one guy who helped fix games in over 50 countries in the world. This is Finnish police, the Hungarian police, the German police, the Italian police saying this.
"This is over 800 pages of the Cremona public prosecutor's report [from the most recent Italian match fixing scandal] that not only names the man and gives his birth date, it has his phone records, it talks about where he was, it talks about everything."
Singapore police said in a statement: "The authorities in Singapore are assisting the Italian authorities through Interpol in their investigations into an international match fixing syndicate that purportedly involves a Singaporean, Dan Tan Seet Eng, and have provided information requested by the National Central Bureau [NCB] Rome.
"So far, Dan Tan Seet Eng has not been arrested or charged with any offence in Singapore.
"We wish to reiterate that Singapore takes a strong stance against match fixing and is committed to working with international enforcement agencies to bring down transnational criminal syndicates, including those that involve the acts of Singaporeans overseas, and protect the integrity of the sport."
Tan could not be reached for comment.
Hill appeared last month at a match fixing conference in Rome attended by international football and police representatives as well as gambling experts.
European football's governing body Uefa says its early warning system to combat match fixing shows only 0.7 per cent of the 32,000 matches monitored per year are fixed, almost exclusively lower-division matches.
However, Hill argues the systems used by Fifa and Uefa to track suspicious activity on the betting markets would not detect scams by Asian gangs that operate across Europe.
Gianni Infantino, the Uefa general secretary, said at the Rome conference that his organisation was "not geared up to fight criminality", but Fifa counterpart Jerome Valcke said no Champions League or World Cup matches were fixed.
Hill said: "Early warning systems are based on the premise that the fixers are stupid. They're not. The fixers spend as much time working out how to fix the gambling markets - so that nobody notices what they're doing - as they do fixing the actual games.
"The bigger the game, the easier it is to fix the gambling market."
The big tournaments could also be affected. "They don't know based on their early warning system whether there's fixing in the World Cup or the Champions League, because there's too much liquidity - too much money being placed on a game," Hill said.
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