Interpol Steps Up Fight Against Illegal Sports Betting

Posted on: May 20, 2022, 06:13h. 

Last updated on: May 20, 2022, 08:32h.

Interpol, the international police organization, just wrapped up a recurring meeting it holds to address sports integrity and illegal sports betting. As it has done in previous years, Interpol reiterated the need for global coordination to improve the sports and sports betting ecosystems.

Interpol IMFTF
Interpol’s IMFTF meets in 2018. The sports transparency and match-fixing watchdog wants countries to collaborate more on controlling sports activity. (Image: Interpol)

The 12th meeting of Interpol’s Match-Fixing Task Force (IMFTF), held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), concluded with a call to harmonize global efforts to curb competition manipulation. The three-day event brought together integrity and intelligence specialists from around 50 countries. Among them, legal representatives, public authorities, sports federations, anti-doping organizations and betting control services united to address match-fixing on a global scale.

It was the first major event held under the wing of the Centre against Corruption and Financial Crime (IFCACC), which Interpol recently created. This body provides a coordinated global response against the exponential growth of corruption and transnational financial crime.

More Collaboration Needed

The International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA) recently reported that suspicious betting alerts are declining. This could be an indication that ongoing efforts to monitor sports and betting activity are working. However, there is more that can be done.

In the IMFTF meeting, the participants focused on mechanisms to boost intelligence sharing and close legislative and institutional gaps. This includes the establishment of national platforms, as described in the 2014 Macolin Convention. These can centralize and analyze information on irregular and suspicious trends.

More than ever, as the potential for match-fixing becomes more sophisticated, there is an increased demand to use innovation, big data, and social media to counter the threat. IMFTF meeting participants also acknowledged that match manipulators still rely heavily on tried and true manipulation methods, such as targeting the athletes’ environment and grooming young players. They stressed the need for sports organizations to constantly provide education to young athletes.

Interpol also provided an overview of the specific tools available for the legal areas dedicated to data collection on corruption in sports and financial crime analysis. These include Project ETICA and the Financial Crime Analysis File (FINCAF).

Project ETICA collects data on sports corruption and FICAF compiles criminal and organized crime threats. Both tools are available to all law enforcement agencies.

The meeting included a closed-door session as well. In it, specialized researchers shared case studies and discussed emerging match-fixing tactics. They also held multi- and bilateral meetings to coordinate active international cases.

Leading the Charge

Interpol created the IMFTF in 2011 to support member countries with investigations and law enforcement operations in all sports. It also maintains a global network of researchers to share information, intelligence, and best practices. There are now 100 member units in the organization, with more than 150 established National Contact Points worldwide.

Corruption is a key enabler for all forms of criminal activity. Any sport, amateur or professional, on any continent, can be exploited by criminals. Meetings like this allow us to clearly see the changing face of match-fixing,” said IFCACC Director Rory Corcoran.

One major takeaway from the meeting was that, while sports betting intelligence remained important to investigations, it was also necessary to exploit other intelligence sources. For example, although doping has traditionally been viewed through a drug control lens, participants heard that positive doping tests and alerts could be a valuable source of intelligence for integrity investigations. This is especially true for helping to determine the criminal organizations behind competition manipulation.

Interpol and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) hosted a side event dedicated to stakeholders in the UAE. This is in order to raise awareness, build capacities, and improve national mechanisms. These can subsequently prevent, detect, and punish the manipulation of competencies.