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Dan Tan: I fixed Barca game

Alleged match fixing kingpin tells German magazine he earned 15million euros in a single game. -TNP
Dilenjit Singh and Zaihan Mohamed Yusof

Wed, Mar 20, 2013
The New Paper

SINGAPORE - It was an audacious, if not unprecedented, attempt at a fix on one of football's grandest stages.

Dan Tan Seet Eng has been accused of keeping the football world in the dark by switching off the floodlights during a Champions League match between Barcelona and Fenerbahce in September 2001 in an attempt to get the match called off.

And, according to German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, the Singaporean has admitted that the blackout was his handiwork.

Ever since Italian anti-corruption investigators issued an international arrest warrant early last year for the man they claim is the head of a global match-fixing syndicate, Mr Tan has become the most high-profile figure in global kelong.

The spotlight on him further intensified when Europol announced last month that 680 matches worldwide had been rigged, with a Singapore-based syndicate heavily involved in the fixes.

The world's media have been scrambling to hunt down the 48-year-old, but he has largely remained elusive and silent.

The New Paper's interview with him in August 2011 is considered to be one of the rare occasions he has spoken to the media.

But Der Spiegel now says, in its March 11 issue, that it has been in contact with the businessman for over a year until Feb 24, after which he stopped correspondence.

The German news magazine reported that before he ceased contact, Mr Tan claimed credit for switching off the floodlights at Fenerbahce's Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Istanbul on Sept 18, 2001.

The floodlights went out in the 70th minute of the match, with Spanish team Barcelona 3-0 ahead.

Mr Tan, who had bet for the match to have fewer than three goals, then decided to act.

He ordered four Turkish technicians, whom he "had" under control, to turn the lights off, hoping that the game would be called off.

Unfortunately for the Singaporean, the match resumed 20 minutes later with the help of an emergency back-up generator.

Mr Tan told Der Spiegel: "That's how I lost three million dollars."

While that Champions League match was an expensive failed fix for Mr Tan, it dwarfed how much he stood to make when a fix was successful.

The alleged match-fixing financier highlighted the large sums of money he dealt in, telling the German publication that his highest winnings on a single match was 15million euros (S$24.5 million) for a match in Italy's top tier football competition, Serie A.

Mr Tan also claimed that his highest "contribution" to a player was around 800,000 euros.

The 48-year-old avoided the word "bribe money" during his conversations with Der Spiegel and insisted he had never corrupted a player or official.

The article, which was titled ThePhantom (below), reported: "He says he has never bribed a player himself. If he had, then it would have been the work of one of his accomplices, for whom money was made available in Italy.

"But even in that he doesn't want to be falsely accused. This is the portrayal he values."

In one of their most recent correspondences, Mr Tan told Der Spiegel that he has spoken to the police in Singapore.

He added that he has been "wrongfully accused and followed", and from now on, would be cooperating with local authorities.

Said Mr Tan to Der Spiegel: "One has to proceed against these criminals."

The weekly news magazine reported that since that conversation, it hasn't been able to contact him.

But it provided insights into its correspondence with Mr Tan.

He required the magazine to delete its chat history every 15 minutes, even if it was in the middle of their correspondence.

Der Spiegel said their conversations would sometimes be a matter of a few questions and answers, but could, at other times, go on for hours.

It reported that during their online chats, Mr Tan would occasionally respond to questions he didn't want to answer with the symbol of a smiley face.

The weekly publication added that occasionally, he would leave the chat if he was "irritated by the conversation".

One such instance was when he was asked if he was involved in fixing matches in Germany.

The German news magazine said it didn't manage to get an answer on that from Mr Tan or from Mr Friedhelm Althans, the chief investigator of the Bochum police in Germany, who it claims guarded the information like a "trade secret".

The Bochum investigation, which began in 2009, smashed a Croatian match-fixing ring suspected of manipulating about 300 matches across Europe and resulted in 15 arrest warrants in 10 countries being issued.

Match fixing

In April 2011, the leader of the Croatian ring, Ante Sapina, was sentenced by a German court to 51/2years in jail for match fixing.

Mr Althans, the chief investigator, played a key role in the investigations.

He was also the spokesman for Europol's multi-national joint task force, which made the headlines last month.

He highlighted that of the 680 suspected fixes, 380 were old cases which had already dealt with by authorities in Germany, Hungary, Finland, Slovenia and Austria. The other 300 new matches under suspicion were linked to a Singaporean match-fixing cartel.

He has said little else about the Singaporean connection and the individuals involved since, but TNP has learnt that Mr Tan's name has cropped up in the Bochum investigations.

Mr Andreas Bachmann of the Bochum prosecution service told TNP: "Of course there are some contact points between Mr Tan and the German investigation.

"One was written down in the verdict of the Bochum court against Mr Dragan Mihelic."

In April 2011, Slovenian Mihelic was given a suspended sentence of 18 months by a German court for his involvement in the match-fixing scandal.

Mr Bachmann added: "So far, we have connections between the Croatian suspects, the German suspects and Mr Tan."

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