It is a farce, a bureaucratic cone of silence and it comes dangerously close to a cover-up.
I write of Interpol’s ‘efforts’ to fight match-fixing.
You see the articles all the time in the media – as Interpol holds yet another press conference to tout their efforts against fixing from ruining the beautiful game.
I do not say these things lightly – but from my recent experiences with Interpol, this is a warning to the world’s press that they are being bamboozled if they take seriously Interpol’s official statements about its desire to fight against fixing.
Why do I say these things?
Because I was invited by Interpol to go to Rome to speak at their conference for European football associations about match-fixing. I saw first-hand its operations, its personnel and its attitude to the fight against fixing. My presentation at the conference was very clear – you can sum up the state of match-fixing in football with five words.
Here below is an adaptation of the speech:
There are five words that can sum up this whole conference and all its themes: education, player awareness and integrity. There are five words that if ignored mean that we will lose sport as surely as sport in Asia has been destroyed – leaving our industry, our passion, our gift to the next generation devastated.
These then, are the five words: Dan Tan must be arrested.
For those who may not know who is Dan Tan: European police and his former associated have claimed that he has fixed matches or his connections have fixed matches in a host of countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, but also in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Finland, Greece, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, Switzerland, Serbia, Macedonia and most famously here in Italy.
This is not journalistic speculation. There have been excellent police investigations in some of these countries. Last month, another one of his former associates in Italy turned himself into the police and spoke about the gang’s activities.
Both the Hungarian and the Italian police (some of them who are here today) have issued arrest warrants for Dan Tan. Interpol – has issued an international arrest warrant asking the Singapore government to arrest Dan Tan. They issued this warrant months ago and Dan Tan still has not been arrested.
WHY HAS DAN TAN NOT BEEN ARRESTED?
I do not know for certain, but here is what I believe might be going on: he is receiving protection from someone. Officially, the excuse given by the Singaporean government is that there is no extradition treaty between their government and the European Union.
Please, give me a break! We are talking about Singapore here. This is a legal jurisdiction where police charged an opposition politician for organizing a public rally. This is a country where chewing gum used to be against the law. This is a country where they flog hooligans. In my opinion, if the Singaporean government really wanted to arrest and extradite an alleged criminal, they could find a reason to do it in about 3.2 seconds.
I believe, Dan Tan and his gang receive protection both in terms of muscle but also financially from very, very powerful people in Asian society. Very powerful. After reading the legal documents against Dan Tan, I think that if he were to stand trial in Europe there is a chance that he may name some of those people, if he does, it will cause a major scandal in some South-Eastern Asian countries. So, in my opinion, to prevent that from happening someone is delaying the extradition.
This is one of the things that the Chris Eaton, former integrity officer at FIFA was saying as he was pushed out the door – that there is a highly placed person connected to the fixers. I have heard many similar things from my sources.
Now, I may be wrong. There may be some other reason for Singapore not to serve an Interpol international arrest warrant. But at this moment, I believe, that it is a desire to avoid a political scandal that is preventing Mr. Tan from testifying in a public trial.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF DAN TAN IS NOT ARRESTED?
We will lose the war against match-fixing. I helped design the education program that Interpol is beginning to modify and use. There is no better education for a player than seeing the alleged head of a fixing network being dragged off to jail. And let me assure you, that there is no better education for a player than seeing the alleged head of a fixing network NOT being dragged off to the jail.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
This is one of those rare moments in a battle where symbolic words are actually very useful. If this conference, or a single European senior sports official or politician was to stand up and simply, clearly and publicly state – ‘We are not happy, Singapore Government. Your people have come to our countries and corrupted our sports. Our police think they know who these fixers are – Dan Tan must be arrested. Or we would prefer if you did not come to the Olympics or the World Cup.’ The Singaporean government would act.
I leave you with this one simple thought. If Dan Tan, the man who is alleged to have fixed sporting events around the world is not arrested, we will lose the war. All these lovely conferences, dramatic police investigations and wonderful books will all be for nothing. We will have lost. And our sport will be destroyed. Dan Tan must be arrested.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE SPEECH?
I was promptly disinvited from giving another presentation for Interpol in Kuala Lumpur in February. However, far, far worse – when I stood at the end of the conference and politely asked for a single sentence in the closing statement to reflect that national governments – including Singapore – should be urged to follow international arrest warrants – the moderator shouted the idea down.
I was extremely courteous. I stood again and said, “I beg. I urge and I implore you to put one sentence in that reflects that the Singaporean government should serve Interpol’s own international arrest warrant against a well-known alleged fixer.”
To be fair, many people in the room supported the idea and a number of people stood and spoke in favour of it. The Interpol staff still refused to make any meaningful changes – they promised that they would review it, but the final statement has nothing that accurately reflects the discussion.
The next morning, Fabrizio Lisi, one of the Italian police representatives of Interpol who was also at the conference, gave an interview with the newspaper La Republica. He praised my work and speech at the conference and said that the Singaporean government must be pressed to take action. (A note: It was because of Mr. Lisi’s interview that I speak in such detail about the workings of the conference. Having been quoted in the press, I have a need to clarify exactly what I said in the conference). It is unclear if Mr. Lisi was speaking for himself or Interpol. What is clear is the excuse that ‘[Interpol] did not want to risk collaboration with an Asian country by including anything in the final statement’ was repeated and that Mr. Lisi is not one of Interpol’s agents specifically tasked to fight against fixing.
WHY WOULD INTERPOL OPERATIVES NOT WANT TO TAKE ACTION?
I do not want to ascribe personal motives to Interpol operatives for why they would refuse point-blank to issue a statement that would ask a national government – politely – to obey their own arrest warrants. But I would like to mention two factors that a fair-minded observer may think could have played a role in their decision.
FIFA and Interpol are planning to open a $20 million education centre against match-fixing. Where will it be? Singapore. What kind of education will be given in a country whose own government will not follow Interpol’s international arrest warrants against alleged match-fixers – I do not know. However, I do know that in 2014, Interpol will be opening another multi-million dollar ‘Global Complex for Innovation’. It also will be in Singapore.