Police in Singapore have arrested 14 people suspected of being members of an organised crime ring, in the latest match-fixing scandal to hit football.
A joint statement issued late on Wednesday by the Singapore Police Force and the Corrupt Practises Investigation Bureau said 12 men and two women had been detained after an operation lasting 12 hours.
"Police confirm that the suspected leader and several other individuals who are the subject of ongoing investigations in other jurisdictions for match fixing were among the persons arrested," the statement said.
It said the 14 people are being investigated for offences related to match-fixing activites under the city-state's Prevention of Corruption Act, as well as for their involvement in "organised crime activities".
Interpol, the France-based international police cooperation organisation, commended the arrests, which come after Europol said in February that it had smashed a network rigging hundreds of games, including in the Champions League and World Cup qualifiers.
Europol, the European police agency, said at that time that a five-country investigation had identified 380 suspicious matches targeted by a Singapore-based betting cartel, whose illegal activities stretched to players, referees and officials across the world.
In April, three Lebanese officials were dropped from refereeing an Asian Football Confederation Cup match in Singapore, hours before kickoff.
Referee Ali Sabbagh was jailed for six months in Singapore for accepting sexual favours to fix the game between Singapore's Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal.
FIFA also issued global bans on players from Estonia and Tunisia as well as match officials from Armenia in connection with attempts to manipulate games.
World governing body FIFA has warned that match-fixing is threatening football on a global scale and has handed down heavy punishments to players and officials found guilty.
Suspected ringleader arrested
Singapore authorites did not give the nationalities of those arrested on Wednesday, who were said to be aged between 38 and 60.
Five of the 14, including the suspected leader, have been detained for further investigations, while the rest will be released on police bail, the joint statement said.
Police would not comment if Dan Tan, a suspected Singaporean boss of a major football match-fixing ring, was one of those arrested because they said investigations were still underway.
Tan, whose full name is Tan Seet Eng, has been assisting investigators in Singapore since Europol announced its findings in February.
He was charged in May in Hungary in relation to the alleged manipulation of 32 games in three countries.
Tan is also wanted in Italy in connection with the wide-ranging "calcioscommesse" scandal.
The statement said Singapore is "committed to eradicate match-fixing as a transnational crime and protect the integrity of the sport".
"We appreciate the assistance rendered by the Interpol Global Anti-Match-fixing Taskforce thus far, and will continue to work with the Taskforce and the global community in our fight against global match-fixing," it said.
Interpol Secretary General Ronald K Noble said: "Singaporean authorities have taken an important step in cracking down on an international match-fixing syndicate by arresting the main suspects in the case, including the suspected mastermind; no person should doubt Singapore's commitment to fighting match-fixing."