S’porean match fixer linked to arrests of Nepali footballers
Singaporean match fixer believed to have wired money to the suspects to rig matches
Nepal is in the midst of a major match-fixing probe that has a Singapore connection.
Five of the Himalayan nation's football players have been accused of being on the take.
Each of them allegedly pocketed between 100,000 rupees ($1,300) and 1 million rupees from match-fixing syndicates to influence the outcome of a single match.
The footballers - three current nationals and two former nationals - were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of being involved in match-fixing activities from as far back as 2008 to the present. Sources close to the investigations told The New Paper that the footballers had ties with match fixers from Singapore and Malaysia.
TNP can reveal that the two foreigners under scrutiny by the Nepali police are former Clementi Khalsa midfielder and convicted match fixer Titani Periasamy, 38, and Malaysian footballer P. Kesavan, 29.
The pair are alleged to have wired money to the Nepali footballers, said Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Sarbendra Khanal, the chief of Metropolitan Police Crime Division in Nepal.
He told TNP in a telephone interview yesterday: "What we can establish as of now is these two guys (Titani and Kesavan) are involved with Anjan K.C. (one of the five suspects) frequently right before the matches.
"There is some sort of transaction among these guys - the fixers and Anjan K.C."
The suspects are Nepal national team skipper Sagar Thapa and team-mates Sandeep Rai and Ritesh Thapa, and two former nationals, Anjan and Bikash Singh.
Aside from Ritesh, a second-choice goalkeeper in the current national squad, the others are defenders.
Titani first appeared on the radar in March this year when he was arrested in Moldova with another Singaporean for trying to bribe Moldova Football Federation officials with 50,000 euros (S$75,000) to ensure their Under-21 team lost to Belgium by three goals.
The Singaporeans were fined and jailed briefly.
What caught the attention of investigators in Asia, including the police, football administrators and a sports data company, was Titani making numerous money transfers to people in Singapore, Europe and Nepal before his arrest in Moldova.
Slowly, investigators managed to piece together the kelong network working within Nepal.
How many will end up implicated in the crackdown remains unclear as investigations are ongoing. Added SSP Khanal: "Maybe there could be more members involved in these kinds of fixing business. (There) could be two or three more (footballers) or officials."
According to media reports in Nepal, the police have received financial data showing accomplices in Nepal pocketed around 10 million rupees for a single match.
But the total amount of money handed to corrupt footballers in Nepal remains unknown, said SSP Khanal.
A source close to the investigation said: "This is probably the biggest national team bust in recent Asian football history. (But) it's the tip of the iceberg as there were likely cash hand-offs and transfers from other fixers."
Titani's and Kesavan's whereabouts are unknown. Titani did not return to Singapore after his release in Moldova, said a relative.
Nevertheless, the pair are now marked men. So is another Singaporean based in Europe, said SSP Khanal without elaborating.
He added: "Aside from the Nepalis (footballers), these two guys' (Titani and Kesavan) names will be included in international arrest warrants. That's what I'm going to do."
Nepal's fixed international games?
As many as eight matches involving Nepal's national team between 2008 and this year are suspected to have been be fixed.
News reports in Nepal said the team came under scrutiny after its 9-0 defeat against Jordan in 2011 in a World Cup 2014 Qualifier.
Other matches with dubious outcomes involved Nepal's international matches against Afghanistan, Malaysia, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Iraq, Palestine and the Philippines.
Senior Superintendent of Police Sarbendra Khanal was quoted as saying that the men in custody were the "main operators" of the kelong activities in Nepal.
He also said some coaches and officials were under investigation.