The man behind global match-fixing scandals that also hit the Zimbabwe Football Association, Wislon Raj Perumal, has been jailed for two years for match-fixing.Perumal was nabbed in Helsinki mid last year after being on the run for almost a year.
Raj’s arrest was keenly followed by Zifa after the Singaporean was fingered in the Warriors Asiagate scam that later cost Henrietta Rushwaya and Jonathan Musavengana’s their jobs as the association’s chief executive and programmes officer respectively.
Raj was also investigated by Zifa for match-fixing and for allegedly taking Monomotapa to Malaysia in 2009 and passed their players off as the national team.
Reports say the Singaporean could allegedly make up to US$700 000 on a fixed match where he would have to bribe players and even referees.
Some Warriors players confessed before a Zifa probe team that they often met a man on their Asian tours who would organise payments for them to lose matches.
He was described in court as â€œa member of international organised group doing betting scamsâ€ and his conviction marks a significant step in attempts to arrest the growth in corruption, which investigators believe spans the globe.
Fifa investigators are examining allegations of match-fixing or suspicious betting activity in national and club teams in more than 50 countries as they attempt to crack down on the spread of corruption.
Chris Eaton, Fifaâ€™s head of security, welcomed Perumalâ€™s conviction, but said the sentence was woefully inadequate as a deterrent and highlighted the challenge of tackling corruption in sport, which crosses national boundaries.
â€œThe two-year prison term for Wilson Perumal is token at best,â€ he told reporters. â€œGiven the damage inflicted to individuals and the image of football generally by Perumal, to me the penalty does not reflect the gravity of the crimes.
â€œI understand that there is no legislation in Finland that specifically covers fixing sporting results but this highlights a major problem in many countries. Tighter, more focused legislation to protect the integrity of sport needs to be a priority.â€
Eatonâ€™s department is currently working with a number of national federations and Fifa confederations around the world to assist them in dealing with suspected cases of fixing, and on developing a global prevention network.
â€œIf Wilson Perumalâ€™s real legacy is a better understanding of how criminals avoid detection while operating globally and freely roaming, and this then enables us to protect football, this is a far better outcome than a short prison term,â€ Eaton said.
Fifaâ€™s efforts to crack down on fixing will be intensified in 2012 as it becomes the focus of the security department.
Eaton is already is working with the Asian Football Confederation to employ a full-time security officer on the continent, acknowledged as the heart of match-fixing and illegal betting operations.
Fifa will also look to employ investigators in South and Central America, as well as in the Middle East.
The intention is to provide a point of contact for anyone with concerns over match-fixing which, with its international reach, falls beyond the remit of national police and is often a long way down the list of their priorities.
â€œThe primary objective of Fifa is to prevent match-fixing by tightening our match regulations and improving our monitoring and oversight of matches and match organisation,â€ Eaton said.
His arrest and the intensification of investigations into fixing has appeared to spark a rash of investigations around the world that bear out concerns over the global reach of the fixing network.
Perumalâ€™s arrest in March was a major breakthrough for investigators and illustrated the scale of a fixing network they believe is operated from Singapore and may be funded by criminal networks based in Hong Kong and mainland China.
Perumal has co-operated partially with investigators, who believe he is a middle-ranking member of a major match-fixing network based in Asia but with operations around the world.
Links have already been established with several notorious cases of suspected fixing highlighted by some publications.
These include the notorious â€˜fakeâ€™ Togo team that played against Bahrain in 2010, and two international friendly matches in the Turkish resort of Antalya, which investigators believe were staged by fixers explicitly to be manipulated.
The six match officials in those the two games have subsequently been banned for life.
Cases of alleged match-fixing are being investigated in Turkey, Greece, Italy, South Korea, Zimbabwe, Hungary, Germany, El Salvador, Israel, China and Malaysia.
In Turkey, 31 players and officials are on remand pending trial on match-fixing charges, including the chairman of league champions Fenerbahce and senior officials from Trabzonspor and Besiktas, and the former Turkish FA president has been questioned by police.
In Italy prosecutors are investigating 18 suspicious matches and have made 16 arrests, including that of Italy international Beppe Signori.
Suspicious betting patterns were also examined in the early rounds of the Gold Cup, the Concacaf confederation championship won by Mexico.
More than 30 players and officials are on remand. They include senior figures at Besiktas and Fenerbahce. Antalya hosted two friendlies, between Bolivia and Bulgaria and Latvia and Estonia, that Fifa believes were manipulated.
Some 68 players, referees, club officials and owners have been named in connection with alleged match-fixing. They are charged with offences including illegal gambling, fraud, extortion and money laundering.
The ‘calcioscommesseâ€™ investigation by authorities in Cremoso has identified 18 suspicious matches, including one Serie A fixture between Inter and Lecce, and has made 16 arrests, including former international Beppe Signori.
Prosecutors have arrested 46 players in connection with a match-fixing scandal. Some 11 brokers have already been charged with rigging games, and one player is believed to have committed suicide after being named.
The Zimbabwe FA published a report last week confirming that players selected for the national team on a tour of Asia were paid $1,000 each to lose games by pre-arranged scores.
Nigeriaâ€™s 4-1 defeat of Argentina in Abuja last month is being investigated after suspicious betting patterns were apparent, including around the final goal, a penalty awarded to Argentina in the fifth minute of injury time.
Three former players and four referees were arrested earlier this month by a task force from the National Bureau of Investigation for allegedly manipulating the results of matches in Hungary, Germany, Finland, Croatia and Slovenia.
Seven members of a Croatian-led match-fixing ring were convicted earlier this year for manipulating hundreds of matches in several European matches, as well as European club matches, including a Champions League game.
Investigations are being conducted into allegations that clubs from El Salvador were involved in fixed matches in the qualifying stages of the Concacaf Champions League.
Fifa investigators believe that a four-team friendly tournament in Sharjah was targeted by match-fixers but that their actions prevented the plans being carried out.
A ‘fakeâ€™ Togo team lost 3-0 to Bahrain in a game arranged by Wilson Raj Perumal and refereed by the same official who was in charge of the Nigeria v Argentina friendly which is under investigation.
Police have arrested the owners and a former coach of Hapoel Petah Tikva and questioned the head of Israelâ€™s football federation about claims three games were fixed, and that they attempted to influence the choice of referees.
In March Chinese police arrested three referees on suspicion of match-fixing, including an official who presided at the 2002 World Cup.
Two club coaches have been arrested as part of a Fifa-led investigation. The Malaysian FA has established a task force to tackle corruption.