Interpol reportedly arrests match-fixing leader

Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble announced news of a match-fixing scandal in Feb.

ROME (AP) -- Singapore authorities arrested 14 people believed to be part of an organized crime gang involved in global match-fixing, including the group's suspected leader, Interpol announced Wednesday in what appears to be a major breakthrough in the battle against corruption in football.

Interpol, the police body based in Lyon, France, said in a statement that Singapore authorities arrested 12 men and two women in raids across the city state early on Tuesday. It did not name any of those taken into custody.

A high-level police official told The Associated Press that those arrested include Tan Seet Eng, known as Dan Tan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the detention publicly. Prosecutors in Italy have accused Dan Tan of coordinating a global crime syndicate that made millions of dollars betting on rigged Italian matches and other games across the world.

The police official added that Dan Tan's arrest was the result of a months-long investigation in Singapore by authorities there and was not in response to arrest requests from foreign law enforcement bodies.

That could be significant because it opens the possibility that Tan could be brought to justice in Singapore, thus avoiding potential extradition problems. Singapore, for instance, has no extradition treaty with Italy, where prosecutors allege that Tan was deeply involved with match-fixing there.

Match-fixing has become a blight on football, with investigations spanning many countries.

Italian prosecutors investigating dozens of league and cup games they say were fixed had followed a trail back to Tan in Singapore. In court documents which laid out their findings, prosecutors alleged that Tan is the boss of a crime syndicate that allegedly made millions betting on rigged Italian games between 2008 and late 2011, through bribing players, referees and club officials.

Italian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Tan and listed him as their No. 1 suspect, but have been unable to take him into custody.

Chris Eaton, the former head of security for FIFA, football's governing body, said Tan's arrest is "enormously significant.''

"Singapore is now taking serious action. It's really pleasing,'' said Eaton, now director of sport integrity at the International Centre for Sport Security, a Qatar-backed group funding efforts to research the extent of fixing and ways to combat it.

"These people bridge the match fixers and the betting fraud,'' Eaton said in a telephone interview.

Asked, however, if Tan's arrest means that fixing has been vanquished, he replied: "Absolutely not.''

Eaton's successor as FIFA security director, Ralf Mutschke, said last year that news media overstated Tan's alleged role in match-fixing, and that he probably isn't "as involved as everyone is thinking'' and has only "symbolic importance.''

In its statement, Interpol said several Singaporean law enforcement agencies took part in the operation that led to Tuesday's arrests.

It also said that officers from Singapore met in March at Interpol's Lyon headquarters with investigators from across Europe "to review evidence of alleged match-fixing by a transnational organized crime group based in Singapore.''

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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