While police gave no immediate comment and the country’s pro-government media downplayed the news, some Singaporeans expressed shock, and analysts warned the scandal could harm the wealthy island’s image.
Singapore’s drive against corruption helped transform it into a trusted centre for business and banking, earning accolades from Transparency International and the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy.
But in just the latest indication that Singapore is at the heart of a global match-fixing empire, European police said they had smashed a network rigging hundreds of games, including in the Champions League and World Cup qualifiers.
Singapore’s role in international match-rigging has long been clear, with Wilson Raj Perumal jailed in Finland in 2011 and another Singaporean, Tan Seet Eng or Dan Tan, wanted in Italy over the “calcioscommesse” scandal.
However, the latest announcement uncovered the huge scale of the activities, and raised potential problems for Singapore’s reputation, as well as questions about how authorities are dealing with the match-fixing syndicates.
“Singapore’s public policy makers need to reassess whether they have enough resources dedicated to monitoring and enforcing laws relating to illegal gambling and sports corruption in the country,” Jonathan Galaviz, managing director of US-based consultancy Galaviz & Co, told AFP.
“Major questions will arise as to what the government authorities in Singapore knew, when did they know it, and why this illegal network running out of Singapore was not caught sooner,” he added.
FAS vows crackdown
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said it takes “a serious view of allegations pertaining to match-fixing and football corruption” and vowed to “spare no effort” to crack down on any such activities.
“The problem of match-fixing is not just confined to Asia. It is a global problem and FAS will continue to work closely with the relevant authorities, both at the domestic and international levels, to combat match fixing and football corruption aggressively,” FAS said in a statement.
Even Zaihan Mohamed Yusof, an investigative reporter with Singapore’s New Paper who is considered a leading authority on match-fixing, admitted he was taken aback by the numbers revealed by Europol.
“This number to me it’s huge, 680,” he told AFP.
“Whether Singaporeans were involved in the whole 680, I’m not sure but at least there’s a figure and you can see the scale there,” he added.