Singapore

Kelong King: To catch a fish

It is arguably one of the biggest stories in The New Paper's history - kelong king Wilson Raj, his associates and the world of football betting. It catapulted TNP onto the global stage of investigative reporting

The ever-unfolding kelong saga, which points an accusing finger at Singapore as a hub for global football match-fixing, was the longest-running story to date in The New Paper.

Since September 2010, TNP published hundreds of stories linking Singaporeans to allegedly fixed matches worldwide.

Like it or not, TNP became synonymous with match-fixing expose, having made a global impact with our kelong (Malay slang for match-fixing) reports.

When Europol announced in February 2013 that 680 football matches worldwide had been fixed with strong roots to a Singapore-based syndicate, TNP once again was pushed into the limelight.

BIG FISH: (Above) Dan Tan's rivalry with Wilson Raj was exposed on the world stage. PHOTO: COURTESY OF WILSON RAJ PERUMAL

Over a two-week period, TNP was mentioned in as many as 300 online news sites, blogs, radio and TV stations like BBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN, Yahoo News, Reuters, AFP and AP.

Our journey started when award-winning reporter Zaihan Mohd Yusof was first tasked in September 2010 to investigate a "Singapore hand" behind a fixed international friendly played between Bahrain and a fake Togo national side.

Prolific match-fixers like Wilson Raj Perumal and alleged Singaporean kingpin Dan Tan Seet Eng, have had their rivalry publicly exposed on the world stage.

We were the first to break the news of Wilson Raj's arrest in Finland for bribery and possession of a fake passport in late February 2011.

WORLD EXCLUSIVE

About a month later, Singapore's global links to match rigging became evident in a TNP world exclusive, when Mr Chris Eaton - then world football governing body Fifa's security head - said Singapore had "an academy of match-fixing".

Out of 60 football associations across the globe who had issues with match-fixing in 2011, 26 had complained that their matches were manipulated by Singaporeans.

The kelong underworld would have gone unnoticed if not for Wilson Raj's testimony to European investigators. He ratted on his accomplices.

His series of letters to TNP in mid-2011 were equally damning as he had named several Singaporeans, including Mr Tan, who had betrayed him, and matches his syndicate had fixed.

Mr Tan, on the other hand, has been under the international media glare since December 2011. The Italian government has accused him of masterminding more than 30 fixed matches in Serie A and B.

In early March 2013, the Singaporean authorities sent an investigation team to Interpol headquarters in France to study evidence against him.

TNP was lucky to score the only known interview with Mr Tan in August 2011.

He had then claimed his innocence - his bad blood with Wilson Raj was over a business dispute worth $100,000, he had told TNP.

Closer home, the scourge of match-fixing was very evident.

In August 2012, two Malaysians, ex-national footballer Thanasegar S. Sinnaiah, 38, and part-time referee Shokri Nor, 47, absconded after being charged with conspiring to rig Singapore's LionsXII's Malaysian Super League match against Sarawak FA here in May that year.

KINGPIN: Convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal. The kelong underworld would have gone unnoticed if not for his testimony to European investigators. PHOTO: COURTESY OF WILSON RAJ PERUMAL

More than a week before they were supposed to appear in court, we were tipped off that they had fled, despite their passports being impounded.

About eight months later, we found Shokri living with his family in Sungai Petani, Kedah. He declined to speak to us.

Equally explosive was the revelation in early March 2013 that at least one match in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup, which Singapore have won for a record four times, was rigged.

An investigator had alerted TNP that the Malaysia versus Laos match, which Malaysia had won 4-1, had been fixed, as indicated by Sportradar, a betting analysis watchdog.

Without generous tip-offs by newsmakers and investigators, many more links to match-fixers might not have been unearthed.