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Revealed: the international Mr Big calling the shots in football betting

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Nick McKenzie, Nino Bucci, Richard Baker

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Ten arrested over match fixing syndicate

Detectives arrested ten over their involvement with international match fixing syndicates operating from the Victorian Premier League soccer division.

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The world's biggest match fixer is suspected of masterminding the rigging of Australian professional football matches while under police protection in Europe.

The FFA's integrity system is a joke. Nobody even knows who their integrity officer is. 

A Fairfax Media investigation can reveal that authorities are investigating how Wilson Raj Perumal was able to control the biggest match-fixing operation in Australian history, despite ostensibly being under Hungarian police protection as a supergrass in local match-fixing cases.

Arrested: Southern Stars player David Obaze.

Arrested: Southern Stars player David Obaze. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

On Sunday, Victorian detectives arrested nine players and the coach of the Southern Stars Football Club who play in the Victoria Premier League.

Fairfax Media can also reveal it is suspected Mr Peramul recruited skilled ''journeymen'' players from Britain to join Australia's second-tier football league, where they could more easily manipulate the outcome of games but still play in matches that attracted large betting pools in Asia.

Police moved within 48 hours of the syndicate trying to pull off a sting involving the Southern Stars game on Friday night, which Fairfax Media watched at the ground.

Southern Stars players who have been arrested, Ryan Hervel, left, David Obaze, second from right, and Joe Woolley on ...

Southern Stars players who have been arrested, Ryan Hervel, left, David Obaze, second from right, and Joe Woolley on holiday in Bali. Photo: Facebook

The accused players might have allegedly fixed every match they played this season after being directed by the syndicate to lose, draw or win, or concede goals or commit fouls during certain periods of the game.

It is unclear whether any other Australian or overseas clubs are implicated, although a former successful British professional and former A-League player is understood to be a person of interest in the investigations.

The arrests put fresh pressure on federal and state governments to pass laws allowing police to more easily share information with sporting bodies.

Under suspicion: Wilson Raj Perumal.

Under suspicion: Wilson Raj Perumal. Photo: AP

It also raises questions about whether Football Federation Australia has done enough to combat corruption, with multiple sources saying the FFA is well behind other codes, despite being the sport most exposed to corruption.

The chief executive of the FFA, David Gallop, defended the integrity of the game in Australia. He described the news of the syndicate as "a distressing episode for everyone in Australian sport". He said the FFA would "throw the book at these perpetrators, and that means life bans on worldwide basis."

Mark Stavroulakis from Football NSW said: "There is no issue so far with match fixing in NSW."

Player Reiss Noel.

Player Reiss Noel. Photo: Facebook

Mr Perumal, a Tamil from Singapore who has multiple convictions for match fixing, agreed to assist European authorities in exposing his global match-rigging empire after he was arrested in Finland in 2011. He is suspected of using one of his lieutenants, Singaporean Jason Jo Lourdes, to liaise with the allegedly corrupt Southern Stars players, while also having direct contact with at least one player.

Mr Perumal and Mr Lourdes are suspected by Interpol and world football body FIFA of fixing football matches. Mr Perumal may also be involved in match fixing which led to several players being arrested last week in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

It is alleged his syndicate might have earned $2 million by betting on Southern Stars games.

Arrested Southern Stars coach Zaya Younan.

Arrested Southern Stars coach Zaya Younan. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

Mid-tier British professional players Nicholas McCoy, Reiss Noel, goalkeeper Joe Woolley and David Obaze are among those arrested over suspicions of receiving kickbacks for manipulating the outcome of Southern Stars games.

Woolley and Noel joined the Melbourne club this year, after unexpectedly leaving English club AFC Hornchurch.

On Sunday, Victoria Police taskforce Purana arrested nine players and coach Zaya Younan. Several are likely to face charges they tried to manipulate the game.

It is the first time Australia's new sport integrity laws have been used in Victoria and the second time they have been used in the nation.

The investigation began after Sportradar, a global betting analysis firm contracted by numerous sporting codes to monitor betting patterns, notified the FFA about suspicious wagering in Asia on Southern Stars games. The FFA passed this information to police.

Customs officers also reported that several players had suspicious international travel movements.

The club has lost 16 matches this year - conceding 54 goals - and is on the bottom of the ladder.

Several sport integrity experts said the FFA's integrity systems were well behind those of other codes. It ''is a joke. Nobody even knows who their integrity officer is," said one source. On Sunday, Mr Gallop initially declined to name the code's integrity officer.

On Sunday an FFA spokesman said its integrity officer was its head of legal and business affairs, Joe Setright, who is on several national and international sports integrity committees.

A 2011 review commissioned by the Victorian government and conducted by sport investigator Des Gleeson confidentially found the FFA's integrity system grossly inadequate, but Mr Gallop has introduced reforms since 2012.

Chris Eaton, the former chief corruption investigator for FIFA who is now integrity manager of the International Centre Sports Security, said the arrests were "abject proof of the endemic nature of corruption in football".

"The issue of corrupting players is so internationalised and so normalised, football needs something drastic to overcome what is a massive problem for the sport."

Mr Eaton, who has been investigating Mr Perumal for four years, questioned how he was able to allegedly fix matches in Australia while under police control in Europe. "It is absolutely shocking. It also shows how arrogant and how fearless these people are."

with Tim Elliott

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