Football: Matchfixing suspect on way to Milan

Lazio's Francelino Matuzalem celebrating a goal with his teammates during the match between Lecce and Lazio in April this year. A match between the two teams on May 22, 2011, was found to have been rigged; (insert) Dan Tan Seet Eng.

KUALA LUMPUR - An associate of football matchfixing suspect Tan Seet Eng will be detained and questioned when he arrives in Milan on Thursday, international police agency INTERPOL said, following a tip-off by Singapore authorities to Italian police.

"The man is wanted by the Italian authorities for his alleged involvement in matchfixing under the organisation based in Singapore and controlled by Tan Seet Eng," said Ronald Noble, the INTERPOL chief, speaking at a conference on combating matchfixing in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

Noble said the suspected associate, who is not a Singapore national, was arriving on a flight from Singapore and would be detained at Milan airport. He declined to give further details.

A joint inquiry by Europol, the European anti-crime agency, and national prosecutors has identified about 680 suspicious matches including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships, and for Europe's Champions League.

Italian prosecutors have accused Tan, also known as Dan Tan, of heading an organisation to fix football matches worldwide and Italian police have issued an arrest warrant for him.

INTERPOL has declined to say if it has declared the Singapore national to be an internationally wanted person, but an Italian judicial source said INTERPOL had pooled together investigations launched by authorities in various countries including Italy, Germany, Spain and Turkey.

Singapore says he is not wanted there, but that it is working with European authorities investigating the syndicate. Singapore police said last week it was sending officers to INTERPOL to assist in the investigation and that the city-state remained "highly committed" in the fight against matchfixing.

Singapore allows suspects to be sent only to countries with which it has an extradition treaty. Germany has such a treaty with Singapore but Italy, which made the original complaint about matchfixers manipulating Italian games, does not.

Noble had previously told Singapore's Straits Times newspaper it would be unfortunate if Singapore's "well-earned anti-crime reputation" suffered from the allegations.

The INTERPOL investigation has shone a spotlight on what experts say is rampant matchfixing in Asia, where lax regulation combined with a huge betting market have made football a prime target for crime syndicates.

Last year the head of an anti-corruption watchdog estimated that US$1 trillion (S$1.24 trillion) was gambled on sport each year - or US$3 billion a day - with most coming from Asia and wagered on football matches.

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