Monday September 16 2013
– Soccer players last night faced an out-of-sessions court hearing as police alleged a shadowy international crime boss had “planted” foreign players in a Melbourne competition to pull of a $2 million match-fixing swindle.
Detectives are investigating whether the sting links back to a prolific alleged match fixer in Hungary named Wilson Raj Perumal.
The Victorian Premier League has been rocked by allegations members of the battling Southern Stars Football Club were involved in the massive rort.
The Dingley-based club’s coach, Zaya Younan, and nine players were arrested yesterday as investigators from the Purana organised crime taskforce swooped on seven properties across Melbourne.
Information from the Football Federation of Australia, which noticed betting irregularities, instigated the state’s first match-fixing arrests. The FFA had referred details to police after receiving information from respected global bet monitoring agency Sportradar.
Deputy Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said he was not shocked at the possibility such a large sum had been won on a second-tier soccer league. “We hope this sends the message that we’re not a soft touch…we’ll be on to it,” he said.
Mr Ashton said police – who only started the probe last month – would be looking at how to prosecute overseas members of the syndicate.
There are allegations players made tens of thousands of dollars for their part.
Match-fixing carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ jail under new laws.
Younan is known to law enforcement globally and has links with those allegedly behind one of the biggest fixing schemes in the world.
A court has previously ordered him to serve two years’ jail for match-fixing.
He is well known to soccer’s world governing body FIFA.
One of his former associates is a Singaporean, who has been formally accused of fixing hundreds of soccer matches across the globe.
The Singaporean’s alleged activities were uncovered as part of the massive Europol match-fixing probe made public earlier this year.
It is believed that the Victorian case could involve betting syndicates linked to Singapore and China.
Investigators are examining whether the players had been recruited and sent to Victoria specifically to fix matches.
Big money was plunged on head-to-head and margin betting in the alleged Stars fraud.
Spot betting, in which bets are laid during matches, is also under scrutiny after a season in which the team was regularly flogged.
The players at the centre of the inquiry, being run by Purana and Victoria Police’s sports integrity intelligence unit, were mostly brought to Australia from the UK.
The cellar-dwelling Stars beat top side Northcote City 1-0 on August 18th. One betting agency was paying $151 to tip the correct score.
FFV said yesterday the Stars – who have lost four of their last five games – were the only club involved in the scam.
Southern Stars spokesman Tony Kiranci denied the committee knew anything about the raids but said coach Zaya Younan, who was among those arrested yesterday, approached the board late last year for the job.
Mr Kiranci said Younan promised to bring sponsorship to the club and paid bills from his own pocket.
“The committee know nothing and if they did I’m sure Purana would have been knocking on our door as well,” he said.
Football Federation Australia chief David Gallop described the scandal as a “distressing day for everyone in Australian sport”.
– Carly Crawford & Mark Buttler