Zimbebwean official exposes Kelong King's attempt to fix games in S Africa

Chann Sankaran.
PHOTO: SI Sports Intelligence

Roughly two months after his early release from a five-year prison term for match fixing in the United Kingdom, convicted match fixer Chann Sankaran appears to be back in the game.

Chann, a 35-year-old Singaporean, has been accused of being part of a syndicate that attempted to fix football matches in the South Africa Premier League in February.

The allegations emerged recently after former Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) chief executive officer, Ms Henrietta Rushwaya, exposed the kelong activities to the Zimbabwean media.

She said Chann was working on behalf of convicted match fixer Wilson Raj Perumal.

The New Paper has now acquired exclusive material including photos, recordings, an affidavit and WhatsApp exchanges on the alleged kelong attempts.

Photographs show Chann at a hotel lobby in Johannesburg and at a stadium.

Ms Rushwaya told TNP on Tuesday that she was contacted by Wilson Raj in early January.

They knew each other from when Ms Rushwaya was implicated in a kelong scandal involving Zimbabwean footballers. She was pardoned by Zifa in January.

He had asked her to go to South Africa to allegedly discuss fixing matches in the South Africa Premier League. She said she went along with the match fixers' plans to "show the world how this racket works".

She told TNP: "I have lots of empirical evidence to prove my case. Wilson (Raj) did not come to South Africa but he sent emissaries to represent him."

One of them was Chann, who lost no time in making his offer, sending her WhatsApp messages when she arrived in Johannesburg in mid-February.

A screengrab of the messages he sent showed: "Total cost is 15k US...7 (thousand dollars goes to the goal) keeper, 5 (thousand dollars goes to the) players, the rest 3 (thousand dollars), coach and you share 1.5k each."

The alleged match fixers' targets were Pretoria University v Free State Stars, Kaizer Chiefs v Polokwane, and Bidvest Wits v Pretoria University.

RIGGING

Ms Rushwaya eventually met two Hungarian men and Chann to discuss assisting the trio in rigging the matches by paying off Zimbabwean footballers in the South African teams.

But unknown to them, Ms Rushwaya had alerted Mr Terry Steans, an ex-Fifa investigator she could trust. In a signed affidavit dated March 13, Mr Steans confirmed this and said he was occasionally updated by Ms Rushwaya.

Mr Steans, 61, said: "She (Ms Rushwaya) wanted to know what action, if any, she could take."

Checks with betting sources revealed all three matches were offered by Asian bookmakers. However, the fixes did not go ahead.

When Ms Rushwaya asked if she should stay longer in South Africa, Chann messaged her: "ask Wilson".

She said the fixers had paid for her hotel stays and flights.

On Wednesday evening, Chann, who is believed to have been released from jail in December 2015, sent an e-mail to this reporter.

TNP had first written to Wilson Raj via e-mail, asking him about the allegations made by Ms Rushwaya.

The e-mail reply, supposedly from Chann, said: "All I can say at this point of time is that I was present in South Africa during the period. I was funded by some local businessmen to travel to South Africa pertaining to some business matters."

Chann, whose whereabouts are unknown, declined to reveal the nature of the business.

Wilson Raj, who is now residing in Hungary, had also allegedly told Ms Rushwaya in January to meet his associates in South Africa to discuss fixing matches at the Rio Olympic tournament in Brazil this year.

Despite her notifying Mr Steans, Ms Rushwaya's motives for the sting still came under scrutiny.

On March 14, Zimbabwe's The Herald reported that Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa had questioned Ms Rushwaya's motives for exposing the kelong attempts and not alerting the Zimbabwean authorities. He said it was a violation of Fifa regulations.

She told TNP: "This case was non-Zimbabwe related... It had bearing on the South African league. Hence my decision to report it in South Africa."

zaihan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on March 18, 2016.
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