Illegal bookies in Geylang cash in on World Cup fever
World Cup fever turns illegal at Geylang coffee shops
The streets of Geylang were almost like a ghost town after midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Except at some coffee shops, where the crowds were spilling into the lorongs.
World Cup fever has come to Geylang.
And where there's football, there's money to be made - and lost. It's a temptation that bookies and punters alike cannot resist.
When The New Paper checked out a coffee shop showing the quarter-final match between Germany and France, it was initially not obvious that illegal betting was going on.
We approached a man and discreetly asked if he knew where we could place a bet. He looked at us, shook his head and said: "I'm here to watch."
Then, with his arms folded, he tilted his head in the direction of a table occupied by five middle-aged men.
After several minutes of observing them, it became obvious that we had hit the jackpot.
Other people, nearly all men, kept popping by their table. They were seen whispering into one particular man's ear.
They then passed him money and he in turn scribbled something on pieces of paper and handed them to his visitors.
Just as the match kicked off, the man could be seen sticking a thick wad of notes into his shirt pocket.
Some distance away were two men who kept looking around the lorong, as if they were looking out for anything unexpected, such as an approaching police patrol car.
Their attention was briefly diverted when a beer "auntie" shouted at some men who were watching the match without buying drinks from the coffee shop. They seemed to be foreign workers.
Most men in the coffee shop looked like locals.
Not even the sight of pretty women in figure-hugging outfits walking past the coffee shop could get their attention. Their eyes were glued to the action unfolding on TV.
But some men occasionally fiddled with their mobile phones or tablets. Were they placing bets online?
We then noticed another table closer to the road that was occupied by a group of younger men. They, too, were receiving money from people who went up to them.
An elderly man, who appeared to be drunk, approached a young man and said aloud in Hokkien: "How many balls you give, I will eat."
He was quickly dragged away by his friends.
After the match ended with a 1-0 win for Germany, most of the customers dispersed, some cursing under their breath.
A few of them were seen heading to the two tables where money changed hands again, except that it was now the visitors receiving the cash, probably their winnings.
TNP's check on another coffee shop screening World Cup matches showed similar scenarios taking place there.
However, a regular in Geylang said that only "old school" punters placed bets at coffee shops.
Giving his name as Ah Ken , the 35-year-old said: "The heavy punters use illegal betting runners or stay at home in front of their laptops to lock in bets. The ones who bet at coffee shops are ah peks (older men in Hokkien) or foreign workers who don't use technology.
"These people bet small, in the hundreds. Or maybe at most a few thousand," he said.
On June 21, the police arrested 15 people in connection with illegal bookmaking on World Cup matches.
The Singaporean suspects, aged between 23 and 70, were nabbed in multiple raids across the island.
The police also seized about $350,000, computers, mobile phones, betting records and bank transaction record booklets. It was believed the suspects had received illegal bets amounting to about $800,000 in the past two weeks.
Responding to queries from TNP, a police spokesman said that they take a serious view of all forms of illegal betting and will prosecute bookmakers and bettors alike to the fullest extent under the law.
He added: "Anyone with information of such activities is advised to report to the police immediately. Information provided will be kept strictly confidential."
Anyone convicted of betting with a bookmaker can be fined up $5,000 and jailed up to six months.
Convicted bookies can be fined from $20,000 to $200,000, and be jailed up to five years.
The ones who bet at coffee shops are ah peks or foreign workers who don't use technology. These people bet small, in the hundreds or maybe at most a few thousand.
- A Geylang regular who wanted to be known only as Ah Ken.
Come clean? Come home first
On kelong king Wilson Raj Perumal turning over a new leaf
HALF THE STORY: A screen grab of the messages Wilson Raj Perumal exchanged with the undercover investigator. PHOTO: SI SPORTS INTELLIGENCE
I have yet to see a leopard change its spots overnight.
Likewise, I don't see convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal changing for the better any time soon.
To me, the Singaporean fugitive's recent claim that he has turned over a new leaf and wants "to truly fight the scourge of match-fixing" is just talk.
Since his first arrest in Finland in February 2011, the 48-year-old has had several chances to do the right thing, but has spurned them.
World football governing body Fifa had sought his cooperation in 2011 and 2013.
While in custody in Finland in 2011, Wilson Raj had declined to help Fifa when approached, an ex-Fifa security investigator told me.
Then, in April 2013, during e-mail exchanges that were copied to me, former Fifa security head Chris Eaton asked him to reveal what he knew about the 2010 World Cup warm-up friendly matches that were allegedly rigged.
Wilson Raj denied being there. But in his book, Kelong Kings, he admitted to masterminding the fixing of five matches in South Africa.
I thought that Wilson Raj would put his match-fixing ways behind him, with the birth of his two babies this year. Becoming a father for the first time changes people, and he had said as much in a letter to me in 2011.
In the letter, which appears in my book, Foul! The Inside Story of Singapore Match Fixers, Wilson Raj spoke about his "regret".
"If I can turn back the clock, my wish would be to have a family with kids. I'm 46, I let time slip and that's my biggest regret," he wrote.
But while his partner was pregnant last year, Wilson Raj was giving orders to his lieutenant, Chann Sankaran, about a bribery attempt in the Conference League in England.
Wilson Raj did all this while serving as a prosecution witness in Hungary's match-fixing trials.
Chann was recently sentenced to five years' jail in the UK after he was caught in a sting operation.
But Wilson Raj remains a free man despite telling an undercover investigator that Chann was working for him.
There are secretly-recorded conversations between Wilson Raj and the undercover investigator from SI Sports Intelligence that link him to Chann, and show his Singapore syndicate's match-fixing capabilities.
Some of the text message exchanges between him and the undercover investigator, who was posing as an "investor", show that Wilson Raj had not been so forthcoming in his book, revealing only information for which he had been charged and sentenced.
So why would he now claim to want to fight match fixing?
I suspect he is feeling the noose tightening around his neck now that he has almost completed his testimony in Hungary.
He could be worried he could soon be deported to Singapore, where he is still wanted for fleeing the country in July 2010 - after failing to appear at an appeals hearing against a five-year sentence for injuring an auxiliary policeman.
By claiming that he has more to offer the European authorities in their fight against match fixing, he is perhaps hoping to extend his stay there.
But enough of his charade.
He needs to be a man and come back to face the music in Singapore as well as come clean about his role as a kelong king.
Share your views with Zaihan at email@example.com
- ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF
World Cup referees suspected of past fixing
Two referees working at the World Cup have been identified as strong suspects in the fixing of international games, reported the Mail on Sunday.
Sources say Fifa were informed during the current tournament that there is evidence of alleged past malpractice by at least two officials on duty. But it is understood that by the time this information got to Fifa, the two referees had already officiated matches.
Fifa said: 'It is important to note that we have no indications that the integrity of the Fifa World Cup has been compromised.'
The tournament has already been rocked by allegations of fixing after a German magazine reported that convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal had predicted - correctly - before Cameroon's group match with Croatia that Croatia would win 4-0 and that Cameroon would have a man sent off. Perumal denies telling Der Spiegel this, saying he spoke to them after the match.