Following an 18-month probe, the European law enforcement agency Europol has discovered at least 680 soccer games in 30 countries were fixed. This includes two Champions League matches.
During a press conference, Europol indicated an Asian crime organization based in Singapore was behind the match-fixing with about 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals involved. Fifty people have been arrested so far. The agency did not point out specific players or clubs.
Some of the games indicated in this complex scam were a Champions League game that was held in England, a few qualifying matches for the World Cup and the European Championship and several highly important matches in the European leagues.
Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, said the bribing of officials and players “formed part of a sophisticated organized crime operation … and involved over €2 million ($2.7 million) in corrupt payments to those involved in the matches.”
Europol stated that in matches based in Germany, criminals bet €16 million ($21.6 million) on fixed matches, making a profit of €8 million ($10.8 million). The highest bribe of €140,000 ($189,500) took place in Austria.
A further 300 matches outside of Europe are under investigation, most involving national teams in Asia, Africa and Central and South America.
Soccer is the watched by billions of people globally, making huge profits for both clubs and broadcasters, thus making it the most popular sport in the world.
An estimated $1 trillion total ($3 billion per day) went into sport gambling in 2012, with most of the betting occurring in Asia on soccer games, according to an anti-corruption watchdog group.
"I'm a committed football fan," added Wainwright. "I'm encouraged by the serious way many football administrators are taking it and by the results of this investigation."