Victorian detectives have swooped on a match fixing syndicate operating from Victoria’s Premier League professional soccer division.
Fairfax Media can reveal that international match fixing syndicates run by organised criminals have been fixing soccer matches in Australia, making hundreds of thousands of dollars on Asian betting markets.
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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.
An investigation revealed that up to ten European footballers playing professional football in Australia have been recruited by the syndicate.
Some of the players arrested have played professionally in the United Kingdom before coming to Australia.
One avenue of inquiry being probed by police is whether the players were recruited by the syndicate before flying to Australia.
The team at the centre of what looms as the largest match fixing scandal to hit Australian sport is the Southern Stars Football Club, which is based in Melbourne’s south-east.
The team is on the bottom of the Victorian Premier League ladder and has been thrashed on several occasions this year.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been wagered on the outcome of the club’s games, including the number of goals conceded, by the syndicate in collaboration with the allegedly corrupted players.
Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton said that winnings on the bets were about $2 million and the players were alleged to have been paid thousands of dollars for their involvement. He said it was the biggest match fixing scandal in Australian history.
The scandal will put huge pressure on the state and federal government to concede to long-standing police requests for laws to be changes so authorities can share with sporting bodies information about suspected corruption.
Victoria Police’s Purana taskforce, in conjunction with the force’s sports integrity unit, arrested up to ten people across the state today.
Those arrested include Southern Stars players David Obaze, Nicholas McKoy and Joe Woolley and the coach of the club, Zaya Younan.
Another of the players arrested is Reiss Noel, who travelled with Joe Woolley to Australia in the middle of the year after unexpectedly leaving English club AFC Hornchurch.
The players are understood to have allegedly received kickbacks for conceding goals or throwing matches, and police have been unable to rule out the possibility they were involved in match fixing at their previous clubs.
They are expected to be charged with corrupting the outcome of betting.
The players arrested are from Britain and are mid-tier professional players. It is understood that the match-fixing syndicate has allegedly targeted the players and a second tier competition in Australia because it believed it would lessen the chance of detection.
The amount of money being wagered in Asia on professional soccer in Australia, including second tier leagues, has been increasing dramatically over the last few years.
The bets on the allegedly fixed matches are suspected to have been wagered on the internet, Asian and underground gambling markets, meaning it is hard for local law enforcement to track.
Mr Ashton said seven search warrants had been executed at Preston, Clayton and Wantirna.
Nine international players and Mr Younan were arrested and are being interviewed by Purana detectives.
Mr Ashton said they were expected to be the first people charged under match fixing legislation passed earlier this year by the state government.
"I'd certainly like to commend the Football Federation for bringing the matter forward diligently," he said.
"Over the last 12 months we've been saying consistently this is a major threat to Australian sport.
"The players aren't unwitting pawns, they're in full knowledge of what was going on."
Police are investigating every game the team has played this season. It is possible the players were recruited specifically to fix matches.
Mr Ashton said the FFV started to have concerns about Stars matches in July, but irregular betting patterns were the reason the syndicate had been detected.
FFA: 'Integrity of football is paramount'
Football Federation Australia (FFA) today commended Victoria Police for the investigation of alleged match-fixing in the Victorian Premier League and this morning’s arrest of ten suspects.
FFA CEO David Gallop said that FFA provided Victoria Police with information relating to suspicious betting activity and welcomed the investigation by the Sports Integrity Intelligence Unit within the force.
“The integrity of football is paramount,” said Gallop. “We provided information to Victoria Police within 24 hours of receiving an alert from our international betting integrity monitoring agents Sportradar, who then worked closely with the investigation team.
“The arrests today show that the integrity measures put in place by FFA are working to detect illegal betting activity.
“We’re determined to keep football clean. Alongside other sports bodies in Australia and globally, we must eradicate corrupt behaviour from sport.”
In addition to the criminal proceedings in Victoria, FFA will charge the people arrested today under FFA’s National Code of Conduct. They will face a range of sanctions including life bans from football which would apply worldwide.