JUST when the dust appears to be settling from the Wilson Raj investigations in Finland, Singaporeans have again been linked to a major match-fixing probe.
This time, investigators have picked up their trail in Fifa’s Concacaf region, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The “Singaporean connection” is being explored in the region’s premier football tournament, the 2011 Concacaf Gold Cup, as well as the 2010 Concacaf Champions League.
Concacaf is the governing body of football in the region, which covers countries like the US, Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica and Jamaica.
This latest scandal was first reported in weekly German news magazine Der Spiegel last Saturday.
It said that sporting authorities and Interpol were investigating alleged match-fixing in three games played in the ongoing Gold Cup, held in the US.
Der Spiegel quoted an unnamed investigator as saying: “Everything leads to Singapore.”
The three games suspected of being rigged included two 5-0 results and a 4-0 outcome.
Mexico thrashed both El Salvador and Cuba 5-0 while Costa Rica beat Cuba by the same scoreline.
Two games ended 4-0 – Grenada lost to both Jamaica and Guatemala by that scoreline during the group stage of the tournament.
Der Spiegel quoted an anonymous source as saying that for all three of the allegedly rigged matches, “there was a huge number (sic) of suspicious betting in Asia”.
Whether the results had been fixed, or simply coincidence, has yet to be ascertained.
But it would be hard to discount what The New Paper was told days before the June 5 Gold Cup opening ceremony.
On May 30, TNP received a text message suggesting that the Gold Cup had been rigged and that Singaporeans were involved.
According to a European source close to the Gold Cup investigations, the information given to TNP was accurate.
TNP has learnt that the investigators may have been given prior warning following information received from the Finnish probe, where a Singaporean, Wilson Raj Perumal, is being tried.
The fugitive from Singapore was arrested in Finland while trying to leave the country on a forged passport. He is on trial for allegedly bribing players in the Finnish league to throw matches.
His arrest and subsequent revelations of Singaporean involvement in global match-fixing led Fifa to brand Singapore as “an academy for match-fixers”.
Another source about the Gold Cup “kelong” (match-fixing) is believed to have originated from a punter in the UK.
Meanwhile, Fifa’s head of security, Mr Chris Eaton, who was in Miami, Florida, in the US during the Gold Cup, said that Fifa, the world football governing body, was not involved in the Concacaf investigations.
He told TNP in a telephone interview last night: “Nevertheless, we are always interested in allegations of match-fixing because criminals do not discriminate between football competitions.
“As we are currently engaged in probes on Singapore and Malaysia-based match-fixing syndicates, it could be possible there will always be ‘cross-overs’. Syndicates can operate in any part of the world.”
When asked if he knew the identities of the teams named in the allegations, Mr Eaton declined to elaborate.
While some believe that the Singaporean presence in the Concacaf region may be a recent event, others think otherwise.
Singaporean match-fixing syndicates may have been operating in Central America possibly as early as 2008, TNP was told by one South American observer, who declined to be named.
News reports seem to support the observer’s claims.
A June 15 report in El Grafico, a newspaper based in El Salvador, mentioned that a group of criminals with links to the “Singapore mafia” had tried to corrupt Salvadoran team Club Deportivo FAS during the 2010 Concacaf Champions League.
In October 2010, a freelance football agent, had been in Panama to scout for talent.
There, he allegedly received a telephone call from a former club president.
El Grafico reported that the club president had asked the agent to “go to a certain place and take the money of one of my team sponsors”.
The newspaper added that the “sponsor” was “from Singapore” and had spoken to the agent about “an offer of US$70,000 (S$91,000) allegedly to ensure a certain score in the Concacaf Champions League match between Deportivo FAS and Olimpia in San Salvador”.
A recording of an alleged telephone conversation between the agent and the Deportivo FAS captain was in El Grafico’s possession.
In that conversation, which was in Spanish, the agent had allegedly said: “The president sent me to see if these people in Panama will help, will give some money, and yes, they will, but only if we have all the situation fixed.
“They are from Singapore. They are very serious people, man.”
Other damning portions in the El Grafico report alleged that some of the Deportivo FAS players took bribes.
The club’s former coach was quoted as saying that games against two other teams were fixed for US$470,000.
"Singapore, we are kings of kelong"