Game not over for alleged match-fixer

Dan Tan.
PHOTO: The New Paper

The backlash was swift and loud.

When one gaunt-looking man walked out of the Supreme Court a free man on Wednesday, it attracted the ire of well-regarded personalities in the football and law enforcement circles.

Some, like former Interpol secretary-general Ron Noble and ex-Fifa head of security Chris Eaton, expressed their disappointment in various reports that alleged kelong mastermind Dan Tan Seet Eng had been released following an appeal after two years of detention.

They regard the Court of Appeal's decision as "out of touch".

Mr Noble reportedly said that "the rest of the world will continue to pay the price" if Singapore could not stop international match fixing based here.

Even Fifa, whose reputation had recently been put to question, said it was very disappointed with the decision to release Mr Tan, "given the gravity of his past activities relating to match manipulation".

But before the next salvo is fired Singapore's way, let's pause and examine the case more closely.

Chief Justice (CJ) Sundaresh Menon's decision to free Mr Tan, after regarding his detention as unlawful, and Tan's alleged international match-fixing offences in countries like Italy and Hungary, are two separate matters.

Mr Tan was arrested along with 13 others for alleged activities in international match fixing in September 2013.

But only a handful, including Mr Tan, were detained under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA).

The law allows the Minister of Home Affairs to order the detention of suspected criminals without trial.

CJ Menon stressed that the most important purpose of the CLTPA was the maintenance of "public safety, peace and good order" within Singapore.

However, Mr Tan's detention was viewed as unlawful because "there is nothing to suggest whether (or how) these activities could be thought to have a bearing on the public safety, peace and good order within Singapore", he added.

While Mr Tan may now have a reprieve based on a technicality in the law, I doubt his mind would rest easy.

Mr Tan could be re-arrested for his alleged roles in match fixing under different laws in the penal code.

The game is not over. In fact, it may just be starting.

Whether or not Mr Tan is behind bars, Singapore's reputation of pursuing those who dabble in match fixing is untarnished.

ZERO TOLERANCE

The Singapore authorities have continued in its zero-tolerance approach to punishing Singaporean fixers even after the crackdown that first led to Mr Tan's detention in September 2013.

Eric Ding, Rajendran Kurusamy and Selvarajan Letchuman are now serving time - of between 30 months and five years in jail.

And these are not short sentences like a year or two, which has on occasion been handed to match fixers in Europe.

Wilson Raj Perumal's two-year sentence for bribing Finnish footballers and passport infringements in 2011 pales in comparison to what is meted out in our courts.

As we speak, a few more Singaporeans, who had recently been charged with match fixing offences locally and overseas, await their trials.


This article was first published on November 27, 2015.
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