I could not believe it.
Two separate sources from the Singapore Government had just divulged similar information on the 2014 World Cup ambitions of a Singapore match-fixing syndicate.
"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. When the 2014 World Cup comes, all they will be doing is collecting (their betting earnings)," said one source.
Apparently, the ultimate plan of these fixers is to set up one illegal infrastructure for two major football events - the World Cup and the Olympic Games.
SI Sports Intelligence's director of operations, Michael Pride, shares this view. He believes that there was a plan for a syndicate - allegedly Dan Tan's - to fix the 2014 World Cup matches.
"Through corrupt referees, this syndicate allegedly sets up fixes six months ahead of major matches. From source information, they were allegedly gearing up for the World Cup," said Pride. The dismantled syndicate had apparently been linked to matches in Latin America and Africa.
The other Singapore source explained that this was part of the reason they moved against the Singapore match-fixing syndicate. "Something had to be done to stop them... We couldn't take the chance," said the senior official.
The biggest test for international law enforcement agencies and football stakeholders is just around the corner - the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil. It would be naive for anyone to think that match-fixing and illegal betting syndicates will not be eyeing football's showpiece event. Already, there had been attempts to try to fix the World Cup, as shared by several sources in law enforcement. In October 2013, The New Paper reported that some syndicates had started building contacts and were poised to make millions.
For the taking: A slice of the betting pie
Despite the close scrutiny by global law enforcement, media and football stakeholders, Andreas Krannich, managing director of integrity and strategy for Sportradar, a betting analysis company, said he does not believe that the match fixers will back off as the 2014 World Cup approaches. Krannich said in 2013: "The syndicate of Wilson Raj Perumal and Dan Tan has recently been proven to be still active... The World Cup has the largest potential for profits and although many of the players' wages are significantly higher than those corrupted outside the World Cup (and therefore harder to bribe), the opportunity remains."
What is the size of the betting pie on offer? Krannich gave a shocker of an estimate. Taking into account football betting hot spots such as China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia, the 2014 World Cup betting turnover is expected to comfortably exceed US$150 billion (S$187 billion).
In April 2013, Fifa's security head (Ralf) Mutschke told Xinhua news agency, "we (Fifa) don't have any leads that any match has been thrown", adding he was confident that "nothing will happen through the (2014 World Cup) qualification".
In January 2014, however, Mutschke began to sound a little more concerned with the World Cup looming five months away. He said: "We would be stupid not to take into consideration that World Cup matches could be targets of fixers. We have to prepare ourselves, and of course, not believe that the World Cup is exempt."
According to Pride, other syndicates may have executed their World Cup plans years earlier. He showed me a video clip where a Laos national team football player said that a 2014 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia in June 2011, among others, had been fixed. The football player alleged: "Before the game, all the players knew what the score was going to be."