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War on kelong to start here

May 10, 2011 - 1:41am


Fifa president Sepp Blatter shakes hands with Interpol secretary-general Ronald Noble after signing the agreement to combat match-fixing

KELONG kings, beware. World football governing body Fifa and global police Interpol have joined forces to set up a new unit to combat the scourge of match-fixing.

Yesterday, Fifa president Sepp Blatter announced that he would finance the new initiative to the tune of 20 million euros (S$35 million) over the next 10 years.

The new unit will be based in Singapore, housed within Interpol’s Global Complex that is scheduled to be ready by 2013.

The announcement was made at a press conference at Fifa’s headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

Mr Blatter, who was joined by Mr Ron Noble, secretary-general of Interpol, said: “In the fight against illegal betting and match-fixing, the preventive measures that can be taken, the protection of the players and the integrity of the game are of the utmost importance.

“Joint work with the authorities and with Interpol is crucial for success, and for this reason, we are very pleased to announce this contribution today, which will further enhance our cooperation.”

Protect the sport

The collaboration will provide cutting-edge training, education and prevention to protect the sport, the players and the fans from fraud and corruption.

Why base the unit in Singapore?

Mr Chris Eaton, Fifa’s head of security, said it makes sense to conduct the training here.

He told The New Paper in a telephone interview after the press conference: “Singapore’s an excellent choice because it makes managerial and logistical sense (to base it here).”

Mr Eaton had told The New Paper in a previous interview that Fifa investigations suggested that Singapore had an “academy of match-fixers”.

“South-east Asia needs a bit of awareness in understanding the negative scale of illegal betting and match-fixing coming from the region,” he said.

“The scale of match-fixing has nothing to do with football played in Singapore. But the match-fixers in the region just happen to be Singapore citizens who engage in a global activity.”

Mr Blatter yesterday reiterated Fifa’s “zero-tolerance” stand towards match-fixing.

He said: “Match-fixing shakes the very foundations of sport, namely fair play, respect and discipline. That’s why Fifa employs a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to any infringement of these values.”

The news follows Fifa’s recent probe into global match-fixing, in which more than 300 club and international matches are being scrutinised.

The agreement between Fifa and Interpol was also hailed by Mr Noble.

He said: “By funding a long-term corruption prevention training programme to be designed and implemented by Interpol... Fifa has taken a significant step towards ensuring the integrity of football worldwide.”

The anti-corruption efforts in the upcoming Global Complex here would help the two organisations keep “the world’s most popular sport free of the corrupt influences of transnational organised crime syndicates”, Mr Noble said.

Meanwhile, Fifa also announced the creation of an internal Betting Integrity Investigation Task Force, which will be based in Zurich.

It would comprise members of Fifa’s legal division and security department.

Fifa’s investigations include looking into Singaporean fugitive and convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, who had escaped Singapore and was believed to have used London as a base for six months.

In July 2010, he had failed to appear for an appeal hearing in Singapore against his five-year jail sentence for injuring an auxiliary police officer.

Wilson Raj had rented two London apartments while he was on the run – one of them near London’s Wembley Stadium.

Wilson Raj currently awaits trial in Finland after he was arrested there on Feb 24 while trying to leave the country on an alleged fake passport.

His arrest sparked a major probe on match-fixing allegations in the local Finnish league.

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