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Published: Tuesday December 17, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday December 17, 2013 MYT 7:45:55 AM

Gambling and trade zeal gives rise to match fixing

IT’S one of the world’s smallest and wealthiest countries, but a deep gambling culture coupled with sheer entrepreneurial zeal has made Singapore a big player in global match-fixing, experts say.

The arrests of two Singaporean men over a scandal in Britain has again thrown a spotlight on the Southeast Asian city-state, known for its cleanliness, strict law and order and high number of millionaires.

Despite such advantages, Singapore is continually linked to match-rigging around the world, testament to a network that is proving hard to eradicate – even when leading members are under arrest or police protection.

Chann Sankaran, 33, and Krishna Sanjey Ganeshan, 43, were taken in by British police this month after a video-taped sting and accused of rigging lower-tier English games.

The arrests come just months after Singapore launched its biggest crackdown on alleged match-fixers and locked up leading suspects, including purported mastermind Dan Tan.

Singapore’s Wilson Raj Perumal, a notorious fixer who was jailed in Finland and is now under police protection in Hungary, denied any involvement in the English scam after one of the suspects called him his “boss”.

Reports said Perumal, who says he used to work with Dan Tan and has fixed games around the world, was also named by investigators probing a multi-million dollar fixing ring in Australian state football.

The latest developments are part of a chain of events set in motion more than 20 years ago, when Perumal started fixing games in Singapore before moving abroad to escape the attentions of Singaporean police.

Easy international transport, a passport accepted around the world and fluency in English and Mandarin have helped Singaporean fixers spread their influence abroad with the support of external investors, most believed to be from China.

The island off the southern tip of peninsular Malaysia has a popular horse-racing track and its two casinos are among the hottest in the world, raking in a combined total of US$5.85bil (RM18.5bil) in 2012.

The Singapore Totalisator Board, which manages the country’s two legal football betting and lottery companies, saw revenues of nearly US$800mil (RM2.5bil) in the year to March 2013, from a total population of just 5.4 million. There are also dozens of illegal football betting outfits.

Gambling is so entrenched that to keep them away from the casinos, the government has levied a US$80 (RM254) charge on Singapore nationals just to get through the doors.

When there is a road accident, locals take note of the stricken cars’ licence plates to use them in a four-digit lottery, thinking the numbers have now used up all their bad luck and will bring good fortune to the punter.

“No more burying our heads in the sand, Singapore is a nation addicted to gambling, as is much of the region,” said writer Neil Humphreys, author of the football novel Match Fixer.

“I no longer tell people that I have written a book on match-fixing or that I regularly write about football,” he added.

“When I did in the past, the initial response was – without fail – to ask for betting tips on upcoming games. That response is uniquely Singaporean.” — AFP

Tags / Keywords: Regional, world

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