Monday September 16 2013

– No one could work out why the second-tier soccer side filled with internationals could play so badly.

And no one could work out why the professional footballers had agreed to play for beer money – arriving as they did on visitors’ visas to take the field for the Premier League’s newly promoted Southern Stars.

On paper they should have topped the table – instead they were on the bottom with only one win and a global deficit of 46.

But to sports corruption experts there was no mystery. It was the classic combination of journeymen players, a second-string competition and a growing interest from Asian gambling rings.

The man calling the shots had not seen a Southern Stars game or even attended an Australian soccer match.

He was half a world away in Hungary – and considered the world’s biggest match fixer.

Wilson Raj Perumal, a Singaporean national, was arrested in Finland but released to become a prosecution witness in a series of European cases.

Perumal is alleged to have bribed as many as 11 Finnish players, fielded a fake side as Togo’s national team in a rigged match against Bahrain and bribed players to lose in Thailand, Malaysia and Syria.

“He fixed five international friendlies before the World Cup,” says International Centre For Sport Security director Chris Eaton.

Asian betting records show there had been a flood of money in the dying minutes of games for the Southern Stars to forfeit goals, with the side often losing four-nil after late scores.

The big payoff for Perumal was to be the second-last game of the season, Southern Stars against Richmond last Friday.

The Asian bookies had calculated the Richmond side as the likely winners by 78% and so Perumal’s syndicate was able to invest heavily at six-to-one odds for the draw. Which was the exact result, allegedly netting the syndicate around $2 million.

Which is why police from the Purana Taskforce and the sporting integrity intelligence unit moved on Sunday to arrest nine players and the coach from the Southern Stars.

The team had only one game left and the suspect players would soon be leaving Australia.

“They were in party mode,” said one detective.

For the past three years in Victoria have publicly declared that Australian professional sport is in danger of being infiltrated by match fixers. They have expressed concern that international journeymen players with pre-existing corrupt relationships with professional punters have been recruited to play in local sport.

In December 2011 leaders from 12 elite sports, including AFL, rugby league and union, soccer, netball, tennis and racing codes, were briefed by senior Victorian Police and Australian Crime Commission officials on the problem.

The response varied from alarm to apathy.

The following year at an international conference in Paris, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton was told of the activities of Perumal’s syndicate.

In confidential meetings, senior sports officials, police, government agencies and anti-corruption experts concluded that match-fixing had expanded to such an extent it was now a major organised crime threat.

Three sports were identified – soccer, cricket and tennis – all codes where players travel across the world to play in areas often considered notoriously corrupt.

A few weeks later Deputy Commissioner Ashton told Fairfax Media, “Match fixing is imminent in Australia. It is a growing area of concern for us. This thing is coming down the highway and we have to be prepared.”

On Sunday he added, “This should be a wake-up call for all sports in Australia.”

Police remain frustrated that the federal government is yet to amend laws to allow them to brief sporting bodies on material acquired by phone taps.

– John Silvester


About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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