The slow pursuit of match-fixing's top suspect


SINGAPORE: It’s a conventional life for a well-to-do Singaporean businessman: he lives in a condo, drives a BMW and enjoys trips to the casino, according to people familiar with his routine.


The difference is that Tan Seng Eet — better known in global  law-enforcement circles as Dan Tan — is the key suspect in what could be the  biggest match-fixing scandal in football history.
When news broke this week that nearly 700 games, mainly in Europe, had been  targeted by Singaporean-linked fixers, questions were immediately raised about  Tan, who has been in the spotlight for the past 18 months.
His name has cropped up in multiple investigations. In the latest probe  revealed by Europol, hundreds of players and officials are under suspicion, 14  people have been sentenced and more than 100 prosecutions are expected.
But the head of Interpol among others complains that, while the integrity  of the world’s most popular sport is under threat, the alleged ringleaders are  living freely.
Tan, in a rare interview in 2011, vigorously protested his innocence and  said he was mystified as to why he had been accused.
“Why I’m suddenly described as a match-fixer, I don’t know. I’m innocent,”  he told Singapore’s The New Paper. “If there’s anything against me, I can take  it to court and fight it,” he added.
Tan, an ethnic Chinese man in his forties, first reached public attention  in 2011, when his alleged partner and fellow Singaporean Wilson Raj Perumal was  arrested in Finland, convicted of match-fixing and jailed.
Perumal, believed to be a key source for blowing open the “calcioscommesse”  scandal in Italy, as well as this week’s Europol revelations, maintains he was  double-crossed by Tan and named him as a key figure in his fixing syndicate.
Italian police have issued an arrest warrant for Tan, and court papers  quoted by The New Paper called him the “leader” of an international fixing ring.
Reports have named him in a German court case and police probes in several  countries. According to Perumal, who spoke to the “Invisible Dog” investigative  website last year, Tan was still active as recently as June.
“If you arrest Dan Tan, the signal it gives is that investigators can reach  out and touch you,” said Zaihan Mohamed Yusof, The New Paper’s investigative  reporter who interviewed Tan.
But Tan appears to feel secure in Singapore, according to Zaihan, who  recounted his routines including trips to the casino.
“It doesn’t make any sense for him to leave the country, he could be  arrested. It’s safer for him to be in Singapore,” the reporter told AFP.
Attempts to contact Tan this week failed. His listed phone numbers are  disconnected, and a visit to his home, a run-down condominium next to a  suburban shopping mall, proved fruitless.
Singapore is considered the nexus of global match-rigging after fixers  learned their trade in the local leagues and neighbouring Malaysia, and then  took it abroad.
With the birth of online gambling, Singaporean fixers were perfectly placed  to take advantage, with contacts in the European leagues and criminal gangs,  and in the underworlds of Asia where illicit betting is possible on a huge  scale.
Last month, Interpol secretary-general Ronald Noble said match-fixing  generates hundreds of billions of dollars around the world each year, comparing  the revenues to multinationals such as drinks giant Coca-Cola.
With enormous pressure now on to smash the match-fixing syndicates,  Singapore, a wealthy island state known for its low crime and low corruption,  is squirming in the glare of attention.
Its powerful Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) said “match-fixing of any form is not condoned in Singapore” and that it  investigates allegations of game-rigging through bribery.
Since 2005, the CPIB has investigated eight such cases in Singapore, with  11 individuals charged and convicted, it said in a statement. However, the CPIB  also told AFP it was not involved in matters concerning Interpol.
Singapore’s police force has confined its comments to a few terse  statements saying it is cooperating with Europol and Interpol, including  handing over information about Tan. But it said it needed hard evidence to make  arrests.
However, calls for Singapore to get proactive grew louder this week.
Interpol chief Noble told the Straits Times: “Until arrests are made in  Singapore and until actual names, dates and specific match-fixing details are  given, these organised criminals will appear above the law and Singapore’s  reputation will continue to suffer.” -- AFP

Related Articles

Leave Your Comment

Leave Your Comment:

New Straits Times reserves the right not to publish offensive or abusive comments and those of hate speech, harassment, commercial promos and invasion of privacy. Your IP will be logged and may be used to prevent further submission.The views expressed here are that of the members of the public and unless specifically stated are not those of NST.