The Alleged Poster Child of Fixing
Dan Tan has a very comfortable life. He lives in a modern condominium in a rich neighbourhood of Singapore. He drives late-model luxury cars and, reportedly, has a personal net worth of more than $58 million. All in all, according to European police, Tan is a poster child for the dictum “crime does pay.”
In court documents, Tan is accused of fixing hundreds of sports events, mostly soccer games, on five different continents. From Finland to Zimbabwe to Guatemala to Germany to Italy to Canada, Tan or the networks of criminals that he is said to lead have been cited as corrupting entire leagues and national teams and causing half a dozen deaths.
Today, the Citizen features a special in-depth report on the world of sports fixing and how these criminals have spread their web of corruption around the world, including to Canada. The person at the centre of this extraordinary story is a 48-year-old Singaporean named Tan Seet Eng or “Dan” Tan.
In Cremona, Italy, state prosecutors claim that Tan helped corrupt dozens of professional soccer teams and hundreds of professional players and officials. Investigating Judge Guido Salvini, who is one of the leaders of the Italian investigation, wrote in his official report: “Dan Tan and his group constitute a criminal network that is both dangerous and are quick to violence for anyone who breaks their rules. This is stated in the testimony of one of the members who said it takes very little in the case of treason by one of the group to risk their murder.”
Not only do the Italian state prosecutors want to speak to Tan, but Hungarian police and the German Organized Crime Task Force have issued either official requests or warrants to have him extradited. Both those countries have seen murders or suicides linked to gambling in sports. Both are anxious to speak to Tan.
There is official interest in Tan from countries around the world. Interpol, the world police agency, has even served an international arrest warrant against him. The Citizen tried to reach Tan a number of times and contacted the Singapore police department to ask why they had not yet acted upon the international arrest warrant. They issued a statement saying that while they took the issue of match-fixing very seriously, they “will need more information before deciding on our follow up actions.”
It is difficult to imagine how much more information they need, as the Italian prosecutors alone have produced more than 800 pages of reports on Tan’s alleged activities in Italy, including photos of his purported agents meeting and passing money before key soccer games. Dozens of former players and associates, including one of his chief lieutenants, are ready to testify about what they claim to be Tan’s corrupt activities.
European police forces across that continent are bewildered by the Singaporean official reaction. They say that they have produced an army of evidence to get Tan arrested and extradited only to be met with a stonewall of excuses and obstacles.
For Canadians, the message is even worse. Singapore has a tradition of fixing Canadian sports. Arguably, the blackest day in Canadian soccer occurred there in 1986 at the Merlion Cup. It was supposed to be a friendly summer tournament between various national teams. However, four players on the Canadian men’s soccer team, who had competed in the World Cup (the first and only time a Canadian team has made it to the final tournament), disgraced themselves and their country. Wearing Canadian uniforms, they took money from criminal fixers linked to the illegal gambling market and played to lose a game against North Korea. The Canadian players were caught, suspended from the team and the case was investigated by the RCMP at the time. However, a judge in Ottawa, where the case was to be tried, decided that a Canadian court did not have the jurisdiction to render a verdict and allowed the players to go free.
Strangely, 25 years later, the same attitude of official indifference seems to permeate the attempted prosecution against other alleged match-fixers. Tan was, according to German prosecutors, in charge of the criminal network that helped fix a game in the Canadian Soccer League in September 2009. Yet not only does he live seemingly undisturbed by Singaporean officials, Canadian authorities have taken no effective action to investigate or prosecute the activities of Tan’s fixers in this country. Over the last two years, both have claimed that the fixing was outside their jurisdiction or they did not have enough information.
This comment was first published in the Ottowa Citizen and on Declan Hill's Blog on 5 February 2013, and is republished on Play the Game's website with kind permission from the author.