Dan Tan – the purported leader of an international match-fixing ring – has been arrested in Singapore after more than a year of surveillance

The ongoing investigation into a worldwide football match-fixing network has seen a major breakthrough this week, as police in Singapore arrested 14 members of the ring, including Dan Tan, the purported leader of the syndicate.

This is the latest break in a story that has been developing for much of this year. Months ago, police in Europe announced that they had uncovered a ring of match-fixing that they believed was headquartered in Singapore. That group was reportedly responsible for attempting to rig as many as 680 matches between 2008 and 2011; the matches ranged from local leagues to major national competitions, and even international matches, including some World Cup qualifiers. According to investigators, the ring was led by Singaporean businessman Dan Tan Seet Eng, better known simply as Dan Tan.

International Saga

It’s taken a while – and a lot of international pressure – for Singapore’s police to follow up on the reports. But eventually, they agreed to work with Interpol and decided to bring Tan in for questioning. That eventually led to the group of 12 men and two women being arrested this week.

None of those arrested were named. However, police did confirm that they were all from Singapore, and that they were between the ages of 38 and 60. In addition, the Associated Press quoted police officials as saying that Tan was among those who had been arrested.

“If the authorities were initially accused of being slow to react – and even then it should be pointed out that Dan Tan has been on their radar since the 1990s – they have certainly made up for lost time,” said Neil Humphreys, a journalist in Singapore who has written extensively on the topic of match fixing. “It’s becoming clear that they examined the evidence compiled by European investigators, returned to Singapore and set up their own investigation and surveillance.”

No Extradition for Those Arrested

The fact that the suspects were arrested in Singapore could be critical in prosecuting the ring’s members. If the suspects are tried in Singapore, that would avoid any problems with extradition, which many feared when the investigation started. There is no extradition treaty between Singapore and Italy, which is where most of the investigation had been centered. Italian authorities had already issued an arrest warrant for Tan, but had been unable to find him.

“Singaporean authorities have taken an important step in cracking down on an international match-fixing syndicate by arresting the main suspects in the case,” said Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble. “No person should doubt Singapore’s commitment to fighting match-fixing.”

While the arrests will deal a major blow to this match-fixing operation, it doesn’t mean that the problem is solved completely. International pressure ultimately caused Singapore to crack down on this group, and Humphreys said that a close eye will need to continue in order for other such rings to face the same consequences.

“The match-fixing hydra remains. A big ugly head appears to have been chopped off, but only one,” Humphreys said, saying that there were at least five other syndicates operating in Singapore. “This is a promising beginning, but the end is still nowhere in sight.”