Europol: Match-Fixing Involved Crime Syndicate

A joint investigation by Europol and 13 European police forces has uncovered an organized crime syndicate linked to rampant match fixing in professional football, according to a press release by Europol.

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT), code named VETO, began operation in July, 2011 and unearthed attempts to fix more than 380 European football matches, including World Cup and European Championship matches. Two UEFA Champions League matches and several high-profile matches in national leagues were also suspected of being fixed, along with over 300 non-European matches. Europol did not provide information on specific matches.

A total of 425 players, match officials, club officials and criminals are suspected in schemes that pulled in betting profits of over $10.8 million.  Over $2.7 million in illegal payments to officials and players was traced to an organized crime group based in Singapore. The Europol press release also claimed links to Russian-speaking organized crime groups.

The investigation was based on the analysis of 13,000 e-mails and other materials that linked matches and suspects and uncovered the organized crime network.

The cross-border nature of match fixing makes it particularly difficult, as trans-national crime means differing levels of enforcement, legal frameworks, and definitions of the crimes involved.

The President of Eurojust, a cooperating organization in the investigation, praised the nature of the investigation, highlighting that “international cooperation was the key to the success of this challenging cross-border case, involving more than 30 countries.”

“Illegal profits are made on a scale and in a way that threatens the very fabric of the game,” said Europol Director Rob Wainwright. “All those responsible for running football should heed the warnings found in this case.”

The inquest has already led to 14 convictions in Germany; those convicted face a total of 39 years in prison.

VETO investigations are ongoing.