Leak Suspected in Nobel Prize Betting Scandal

A surprising number of bettors correctly chose French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio to win the 2008 Nobel Prize in literature — leading the award jury to suspect a leak.

The annual Nobel selection by the Swedish Academy is notoriously hard to guess, but the betting firm Ladbrokes received a large number of bets on Le Clezio in the days before Thursday's announcement.

"I have a strong suspicion that there has been a leak in the system this time," Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy told The Associated Press in an e-mail Friday. "I don't want to say more."

Ladbrokes saw such a surge in speculation on Le Clezio leading up to the announcement that it decided to halt betting on Wednesday.

"Suddenly, there were more and more bets on him," said Lasse Dilschman, head of Ladbrokes' Nordic division. "The odds went from 15-to-1 to below 2-1. That's when we decided to close."

Engdahl said he was in Paris the weekend before the announcement, and read the last few pages of a Le Clezio book as he traveled to the airport to fly back to Sweden. But he didn't believe that's what triggered the speculation on the 68-year-old Frenchman.

"Of course I camouflaged Le Clezio's latest book when I read it," Engdahl said.

Many Nobel watchers had expected a European winner this year after Engdahl told the AP last week that the United States is too insular and ignorant to challenge Europe as the center of the literary world.