Six of the 14 people arrested in Singapore in what is being called a major breakthrough in the fight against soccer corruption are linked to ongoing European investigations, Interpol said Thursday.
The global network's suspected mastermind was among the 12 men and two women taken into custody in police raids lasting 12 hours across Singapore, ending early Tuesday.
Interpol, the police body based in Lyon, France, said in a statement to The Associated Press, that all 14 of those arrested are Singaporean nationals.
The arrests are of "extraordinary" significance and took down "the world's largest match-fixing operation based in Singapore," Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble said in an interview with Associated Press Television News.
"The Singaporeans have been criticized, unfairly I believe, for not being serious about fighting match-fixing," Noble said on a visit to Ukraine. "In fact, they never received the evidence of match-fixing that would have allowed them to either prosecute in their own country or extradite individuals.
"So what the Singaporeans did was they conducted their own investigation, working with Interpol, cooperating with (Interpol) member countries, from Italy, Hungary, Germany, Finland, et cetera. And they made their own investigations, targeted people for arrest who were engaged in match-fixing and made the arrests."
He later added: "What's significant is that the investigation in Singapore didn't just focus on the cases we already knew about originating out of Europe but also additional cases."
In Italy, the prosecutor leading an inquiry into international match-fixing said he would like to question the suspected ringleader.
"It's big news," Cremona prosecutor Roberto Di Martino told the AP. "It shows that our inquiry means something on an international level.
"Now we need to explore the diplomatic channels to see what we can do," Di Martino added. "I'm not sure if our treaties permit (extradition). Plus, these arrests appear to also be linked to their (Singapore's) own investigation."
A high-level police official told the AP that those arrested include Tan Seet Eng, widely 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 Tan of coordinating a global crime syndicate that made millions of dollars betting on rigged Italian matches and other games across the world.
Earlier this year, Europol, the European Union police liaison agency, said it reviewed 680 suspicious recent cases of match-fixing, including some World Cup games.
FIFA said in a statement: "We welcome all actions taken by law enforcement bodies to bring the perpetrators of match manipulation to justice."
The Singapore authorities did not formally identify any of the people taken into custody, but said the "suspected leader" and several others wanted in other jurisdictions for suspected match-fixing were among those in custody.
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 that laid out their findings, prosecutors alleged that Tan is the boss of a crime syndicate that allegedly made millions betting on rigged Italian games from 2008 to 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.
Still, at least 50 people have been arrested in Italy for match-fixing since mid-2011, with matches under investigation by prosecutors in Cremona, Bari and Naples. Point penalties have been handed out by the Italian federation for three straight years, with four Serie A clubs penalized last season.
The Singapore police statement said the suspects are being investigated for match-fixing offenses under Singapore's Prevention of Corruption Act and for involvement in organized crime.
The detainees are being held under a law that potentially allows Singapore's government to hold suspects without trial for up to 12 months, a detention period that can be extended. Introduced in 1955, that law has been used against suspected drug traffickers, illegal money-lenders and criminal gang members.
Leicester wrote from Paris, Dampf from Rome. APTN Video Journalist Dmitry Vlasov in Kiev and Associated Press writers Ansley Ng in Singapore and Sean Yoong in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.
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