Match-Fixing in soccer: Dan Tan and FIFA’s corruption
BRIAN Phillips has investigated football-match-rigging:
I am a midlevel Hungarian gangster. You are a Finnish referee. So here’s how it works. I get a call from a lieutenant in the syndicate — not from Dan Tan himself, the boss has to be protected, but from a middle man somewhere in Asia. Maybe Singapore, where Dan Tan is based; maybe someplace else. The caller says: We need so-and-so to happen in such-and-such soccer game. So I fly to Helsinki from Budapest and take a train north to Tampere, where you’ll be officiating a match in the Ykkönen, the Finnish second division, between FC Ilves and FC Viikingit. We meet. It’s not as if I’m lugging a duffel full of cash. The money will be laundered; we have the systems in place. I want you to be comfortable, after all.
Right now, Dan Tan’s programmers are busy reverse-engineering the safeguards of online betting houses. About $3 billion is wagered on sports every day, most of it on soccer, most of it in Asia. That’s a lot of noise on the big exchanges. We can exploit the fluctuations, rig the bets in a way that won’t trip the houses’ alarms. And there are so many moments in a soccer game that could swing either way. All you have to do is see an Ilves tackle in the box where maybe the Viikingit forward took a dive. It happens all the time. It would happen anyway. So while you’re running around the pitch in Finland, the syndicate will have computers placing high-volume max bets on whatever outcome the bosses decided on, using markets in Manila that take bets during games, timing the surges so the security bots don’t spot anything suspicious. The exchanges don’t care, not really. They get a cut of all the action anyway. The system is stacked so it’s gamblers further down the chain who bear all the risks.
What’s that — you’re worried about getting caught? It won’t happen. Think about the complexity of our operation. We are organized in Singapore, I flew from Budapest, the match is in Finland, we’re wagering in the Philippines using masked computer clusters from Bangkok to Jakarta. Our communications are refracted across so many cell networks and satellites that they’re almost impossible to unravel. The money will move electronically, incomprehensibly, through a hundred different nowheres. No legal system was set up to handle this kind of global intricacy. The number of intersecting jurisdictions alone is dizzying. Who’s going to spot the crime? Small-town police in Finland? A regulator in Beijing? Each of them will only see one tiny part of it. How would they ever know to talk to each other? Dan Tan has friends in high places; extradition requests can find themselves bogged down in paperwork. Witnesses can disappear. I promise; you’ll be safe. Who can prove you didn’t see a penalty? We’re fine.
Let me answer that question by referring you to the phrase that I hope will be your primary takeaway from this piece. Soccer. Is. Fucked. Europol announced the investigation Monday, leaving everyone with the impression that this was an ongoing operation designed to, you know, stop a criminal, maybe catch a bad guy or something. On Tuesday, multiple journalists reported that Europol is no longer pursuing the investigation. They’ve turned the information over to the dozens of prosecution services in the dozens of countries involved, which should keep things nice and streamlined. The man at the center of the whole story, the Singaporean mobster Tan Seet Eng, known as Dan Tan, has a warrant out for his arrest, but the Singaporeans won’t extradite him and Interpol won’t pressure them to do so.3 UEFA and FIFA talk about stamping out corruption, but, and I’ll try to be precise here, FIFA rhetoric is to action what a remaindered paperback copy of Pippi in the South Seas is to the Horsehead Nebula. FIFA is eyeballs-deep in its own corruption problems, being run, as it is, by a cabal of 150-year-olds, most of them literally made out of dust, who have every incentive to worry about short-term profit over long-term change. They all have streets named after them, so how could they have a bad conscience? FIFA sees the game as a kind of Rube Goldberg device, or, better, as a crazed Jenga tower, and their job is to keep it standing as long as the money’s coming in. Doesn’t matter how wobbly it gets. Nobody look at the foundations.
It’s a dystopian view. But is it right? I’d like to see him tackle drugs in football. That is one big open secret…
Read: Match-Fixing in Soccer
Photo: From left, FIFA’s security director Ralf Mutschke, Interpol Director Capacity Building and Training Dale Sheehan, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Acting President Zhang Jilong and AFC General Secretary Alex Soosay pose for photographers during their meeting to discuss match-fixing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. Mutschke has warned that the fight against match-fixing will ultimately fail without the full support of governments across the world. Mutschke said Wednesday he hopes a Singaporean businessman accused of heading a crime syndicate that made millions by betting on rigged Italian games will be brought to face the courts with the help of Singaporean authorities.