Saturday, September 14, 2013

Victorian detectives bust soccer match-fixing syndicate

David Obaze playing for Southern Stars against Richmond at the Kevin Bartlett Reserve.

David Obaze playing for Southern Stars against Richmond at the Kevin Bartlett Reserve. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.


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