Singapore authorities last year placed leaders of a global match-fixing ring operating from the city-state in indefinite detention after uncovering plans to rig the World Cup, claims a new book released Monday.
Written by Zaihan Mohamed Yusof, a Singaporean investigative journalist who has reported extensively on football match-fixing, the book details how he learnt of the now-crippled gang's plans from senior government officials and a prominent sports corruption investigator.
"The syndicate had been posturing, setting up a base of corrupt football players and officials through matches played overseas in national leagues and international friendlies," Zaihan quoted one senior unnamed Singapore government official as saying in "Foul! The Inside Story of Singapore Match Fixers".
"When the 2014 World Cup comes, all they will be doing is collecting (their betting earnings)," the official said of the tournament, which kicked off in Brazil last week.
"Something had to be done to stop them... We couldn't take the chance," another official was quoted as saying by Zaihan, a journalist with Singapore's The New Paper.
Zaihan also quoted Michael Pride, head of operations at Australia-based match-fixing investigators SI Sports Intelligence as saying "this syndicate allegedly sets up fixes six months ahead of major matches.
"From source information, they were allegedly gearing up for the World Cup," Pride said.
The city-state's police and anti-corruption agency in September last year rounded up 14 alleged members of a global match-fixing syndicate, in one of the biggest crackdowns yet on corruption in football.
Singapore subsequently used a special law that allows indefinite detention to hold four key ring leaders of the group, including alleged kingpin Dan Tan, also known as Tan Seet Eng.
Officials say the indefinite detention is necessary because witnesses fear reprisals if they testify in court.
Tan, a reclusive Singaporean businessman, first came into prominence when fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, also a Singaporean, was arrested and jailed in Finland in 2011 for fixing top-tier games there.
Perumal had told prosecutors in Finland he was a double-crossed associate of Tan, who has also been named in several European match-fixing investigations.
Interpol has said that the ring busted in Singapore was the world's "largest and most aggressive match-fixing syndicate, with tentacles reaching every continent".
Experts have said that easy international transport, a passport accepted around the world and fluency in English and Mandarin have helped Singaporean fixers spread their influence abroad with the support of external investors, most believed to be from China.
Sports betting is deeply entrenched in the wealthy city-state, with top European league matches the most favoured among punters. Experts say there are dozens of illegal betting outfits in Singapore.
In May, the Doha-based watchdog group International Centre for Sport Security warned in a report that Asian-dominated criminal groups are laundering more than US$140 billion of illegal sports betting, mainly on football.