The European Union police agency have found evidence of match-fixing in more than 380 professional football matches across Europe, it announced today.
Europol's chief Rob Wainwright described the investigation - which unearthed evidence implicating up to 425 match and club officials, players and criminals from more than 15 countries - as "match fixing activity on a scale we have not seen before."
Of the 380 matches across the 'last three or four years' under the spotlight following Europol's investigation, one was a Champions League match played in England. Other fixtures investigated include World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, as well as "several top football matches in European leagues".
"This is the work of a suspected organised crime syndicate based in Asia and operated with criminal networks around Europe," said Wainright.
"It is clear to us this is the biggest-ever investigation into suspected match-fixing in Europe. It has yielded major results which we think have uncovered a big problem for the integrity of football in Europe. We have uncovered an extensive criminal network."
According to Europol, criminals liaising with the Asian betting-ring had placed €16 million on fixed German matches alone and made €8 million in profits. 50 people have been arrested in connection with the investigation.
Payments of £1.73 million are believed to have been paid to those involved, with the largest individual payment amounting to £121,000 according to investigators, who fear the evidence uncovered so far could only be "the tip of the iceberg."
Key elements of Europol's investigation were revealed in a press conference at The Hague, Holland, today. Around 700 matches in 30 countries were looked at along with 13,000 emails during the 18 month-long enquiry. A number of criminal investigations are now taking place in connection with the findings, with convictions already secured in Germany, Finland, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria.
While Europol were unable to identify the matches in question, specifically the Champions League match played in England, because of 'ongoing judicial proceedings', Wainright says he was surprised at the scale of the match-fixing discovered during the investigation.
"The focus has been on other countries, not the United Kingdom," he said. "However we were surprised by the scale generally of the criminal enterprise and just how widespread it was.
"It would be naive and complacent of those in the UK to think such a criminal conspiracy does not involve the English game and all the football in Europe."
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