PtG Article 10.08.2012

Gangs and corruption in Australian horse racing

Australian horse-racing is facing the biggest corruption scandal in decades as a murder investigation exposes race-fixing, money laundering, tax fraud and tipping involving horse-races across Australia.

Australians have a long history of betting on thoroughbred racing, and in 2011 the country spent 14 billion Australian dollars on horse-betting. But besides a favourite pastime, the horse-betting industry has also attracted criminals wanting to make money by fixing races, new investigations show.  

Police in the Australian state Victoria is currently investigating some of Australia’s top horse-racing figures for race-fixing. The suspected race-fixing involving a horse named Smoking Aces was uncovered during the investigation of the murder of former trainer Les Samba in February 2011, and is said to have yielded participants up to 200.000 Australian dollars in betting returns, writes the Sydney Morning Herald. Racing figures suspected of involvement in the Smoking Aces affair allegedly arranged for two jockeys to ride in a way that reduced the favourites’ chances of winning in order to boost Smoking Aces' chances of success. 

A joint investigation between the newspaper the Age and Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners programme moreover claims that gangs are fixing races to launder drug money, writes the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. 

Allegedly, Australian gangland figure Tony Mokbel, currently serving a 30 year sentence for drug-related offences, paid leading jockeys money in exchange for tips on the horses. The investigation claims that Mokbel’s gang cleaned up to £55 million through horse-race betting. 

Despite a report from 2008 arguing that ‘criminal activity in the racing sport is rampant’, none of the racing figures alleged in the report to have ‘had improper associations with known criminals’ has faced serious repercussions over their dealings with Mokbel, writes the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. 

The response of Australian police has been slow and Australian authorities are yet to prove they can combat corruption in sport, concludes the Four Corners investigation.

Read more: The Sydney Morning Herald: Police probe racing corruption

Watch the Four Corners investigation – Inside Mail - here