ROME (AP) — Singapore authorities arrested the suspected leader of an organized crime gang allegedly involved in global soccer match-fixing and 13 others, Interpol announced Wednesday.
Interpol, the police body based in Lyon, France, said in a statement that Singapore authorities arrested 12 men and two women in raids across the island state on Tuesday. It did not name those taken into custody.
A high-level police official told The Associated Press those arrested include Tan Seet Eng, known as Dan Tan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the detention publicly. Prosecutors in Italy have accused Dan Tan of coordinating a global crime syndicate that made millions of dollars betting on rigged Italian matches and other games across the world.
The police official added that Dan Tan's arrest was the result of a months-long investigation in Singapore by authorities in the island state and was not in response to arrest requests from foreign law enforcement bodies.
That could be significant because it opens the possibility that Tan could be brought to justice in Singapore, avoiding potential extradition problems. Singapore has no extradition treaty with Italy, where prosecutors allege that Tan was involved with match-fixing there.
Italian prosecutors, who investigated dozens of league and cup games they say were fixed, followed a trail to Tan in Singapore. In court documents that laid out their findings, prosecutors alleged that Tan is the boss of a crime syndicate that allegedly made millions betting on rigged Italian games between 2008 and late 2011 by bribing players, referees and club officials.
Italian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Tan and listed him as their No. 1 suspect, but have been unable to take him into custody.
Chris Eaton, the former head of security for the soccer governing body FIFA, said Tan's arrest is "enormously significant."
"Singapore is now taking serious action. It's really pleasing," said Eaton, now director of sport integrity at the International Centre for Sport Security, a Qatar-backed group funding efforts to research match-fixing.
"These people bridge the match-fixers and the betting fraud," Eaton said in a phone interview.
Eaton's successor as FIFA security director, Ralf Mutschke, said last year the media overstated Tan's alleged role in match-fixing, and he probably isn't "as involved as everyone is thinking" and has only "symbolic importance."
In the statement, Interpol said several Singaporean law enforcement agencies took part in the operation that led to the arrests on Tuesday.
It also said officers from Singapore met in March at Interpol's Lyon headquarters with investigators from across Europe "to review evidence of alleged match-fixing by a transnational organized crime group based in Singapore."
John Leicester reported from Paris.