Tuesday September 17 2013
– Police are seeking to extradite overseas members of a multimillion-dollar match-fixing syndicate, including a Singaporean middleman, that has rocked Australian sport.
The development comes as authorities examine whether match-fixing has spread outside the Victorian Premier League soccer competition or involved the players’ former clubs. Federal police are also understood to have been briefed about Victoria Police’s “Operation Starlings” to try to enlist the AFP’s international network in tracking down syndicate members.
Police allege the syndicate was run by international match-fixing kingpin Wilson Raj Perumal.
Associates of the syndicate left Australia earlier than planned, but police are investigating whether they can be extradited to face charges. Other syndicate members never set foot in Australia.
Police believe about a dozen players from Hungary, England and Romania had contact with the match-fixing syndicate, but all were planning to leave Australia in September or had already left.
Four players from Melbourne’s Southern Stars club, its coach Zaya Younan and alleged fixer Segaran “Gerry” Gsubramaniam, whom police described in court on Monday as the Australian “bigwig” of the operation, have been charged with corruption offences.
A senior Football Federation of Victoria figure said the league had no proactive integrity measures in place to combat match-fixing.
The long-standing modus operandi of the international syndicate behind the alleged match-fixing in Victoria involves recruiting journeyman players to infiltrate cash-strapped clubs or leagues.
“We never even knew that was a possibility, but of course we know that now,” the FFV source said.
Soccer in Australia has a history of colourful characters holding club administration positions.
Hume City FC’s chairman is Steve Kaya, who was once acquitted of murder and is a close associate of Mick Gatto. Matt Tomas, a former chairman of the soccer club the Melbourne Knights who recently tried to purchase a Croatian side, is also a close associate of Mr Gatto. The AFP raided offices linked to Perth Glory owner Tony Sage last December. Mr Sage has links to members of the Comanchero motorbike gang.
The arrests were made after the Stars played Richmond in the second-last match of the VPL season.
Previous bets on Southern Stars matches had netted $2 million, police allege. A spokesman for Richmond, where Mr Younan was an assistant coach last season, said the club had no suspicion the Friday match was fixed. Police allege $150,000 was bet on a 0-0 draw. He said it was not believed Richmond’s results last year were being investigated or that the club had been offered a group of overseas-based players for the 2013 season as it appeared had occurred at the Southern Stars.
Mr Gsubramaniam, 45, faced 10 charges in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday. Mr Younan, and British players Reiss Noel, Joe Woolley, David Obaze and Nicholas McCoy also face eight charges. The players are all defenders, apart from Mr Woolley, who is a goalkeeper.
Four players were released pending further inquiries.
Police allege the results of five of the Southern Stars’ games between July 21st and last Friday – three of which resulted in 4-0 defeats, one which resulted in a 3-0 loss and one game that was drawn – were fixed, according to instructions from match fixers in Hungary and Malaysia.
Magistrate Jelena Popovic remanded Mr Gsubramaniam to be held in custody and reappear in court on Friday, along with the players and Mr Younan.
Australian States are split on whether match-fixing should be a specific criminal offence.
In June 2011, Commonwealth, state and territory sports ministers endorsed establishing uniform national laws to make match-fixing a criminal offence punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Since then, NSW, Victoria, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT have introduced legislation to make “match-fixing behaviours” a criminal offence. Similar laws are expected to be introduced in Tasmania next month.
But a spokeswoman for the Commonwealth’s Office for Sport said on Monday that Queensland and WA had decided existing provisions of their respective criminal codes were sufficient to deal with match-fixing. The reluctance of Queensland and WA to join the national approach is believed to have frustrated other states and the governing bodies of major sports.
– Nino Bucci, Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker & Adam Cooper