Meeting local kelong kings? Easy as A B C

Take one, two or three, if you want. No problem.

The local kelong kingpin was not talking about how many goals he was giving.

He was referring to the women being paraded in front of the two Dutchmen.

Later, the two men, who claimed to be representatives of a top division Dutch football club, were also offered a deal worth 1 million euros (S$1.7 million) if they were willing to play ball.

Unknown to the Singaporean kelong boss, the foreigners were undercover reporters from Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant.

Reporters Willem Feenstra and Menno van Dongen came to Singapore in January to see if the Dutch football league could be compromised by Asian match fixers.

There was no need for a painstaking investigation to hook up with match fixer "Victor" (not his real name). All it took were two phone calls.

One was to a former investigator in Uefa, European football's controlling body. He put the reporters in touch with a Singaporean named Sivakumar Madasamy some time last year.

Their next call to Mr Sivakumar, who was told about their real identities, led to an introduction to Victor in January.

Linking with a local kelong kingpin is "as easy as learning the alphabet", Mr Sivakumar was quoted as telling De Volkskrant on April 5.

"Each player has a weakness. Women, gambling and drugs. I get them a great night and then we do business."

Posing as football officials from Roda JC, a club in the Dutch Eredivisie, the reporters met Victor at Gun A Pub in Joo Chiat on Jan 19.

They described him as a slender, middle-age man with short hair and "eyebrows that seem knitted constantly".

Victor boasted that he knew many people in European football and claimed to have earned between $25 million and $30 million from match fixing.

Mr Sivakumar was with the Dutch visitors throughout the night. They were later offered drinks and women - all on Victor's tab.

"Pick one, two, three," he told them. "No problem. I'll pay."

Later that night, the men were taken to Zhuang Yuan Eatery in Kovan Road, where Victor made a proposal that shocked the reporters.

"If successful, there's a lot of money waiting for us. Name it. 100,000? 500,000? A million euros? It's up to you," Victor told them.

But he laid out some conditions: A minimum of five players, including the goalkeeper, is needed for any future fix and he expects the team to lose by at least four goals.

If the Dutch undercover reporters agreed with his proposal, he would send one of his "lieutenants" to Holland to ascertain the footballers' trustworthiness.

What Victor said next was ominous and a clear reminder that men like him are dangerous criminals.

"They cannot mess with us. I do not like to be messed with," he said in a raised voice.

Mr Feenstra said they were getting edgy.

He said: "He looked like the kind of guy you do not mess with. When he started asking questions about our willingness to help bribe players in Holland, things got even more serious.

"We knew we could be in big trouble if our cover was blown."

No pressure

Since no immediate deal was struck, Victor left the group with a parting shot: "If you want to join, it's good. If you don't, it's okay, too. But don't do it only halfway. Think about it. No pressure."

When Mr Sivakumar, who had previously been convicted of match fixing, was contacted by The New Paper, he admitted to meeting the foreigners.

An upset-sounding Mr Sivakumar said: "I know what I spoke about to them. They only asked me about the chances of match fixing. And based on my previous conviction and experience, I told them the truth. If they (want) to add salt and pepper, what can I do?"

This article was published on April 10 in The New Paper.

Get The New Paper for more stories.