'Southeast Asia is hub of fixing'

Gambling houses in Southeast Asia form the foundation for organised crime gangs to generate huge profits from sports match-fixing, according to Chris Eaton, ex-FIFA head of security and director of Qatar's International Centre for Sport Security.

European police shone a spotlight on the region on Monday when they announced a Singapore-based syndicate had directed match-fixing for at least 380 soccer games in Europe alone, making at least eight million euros ($11 million).

The number paled in comparison to the gang's profiteering in Asia, Eaton told Reuters in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

"It's infinitesimal compared to what was made in the Asian market. You can probably
multiply that by a hundred," he said.

The known cases of match-fixing occurred mostly in the West, but the real profits for the syndicates were in Southeast Asia, where the size of the gambling market completely dwarfed that of Europe.

The region's lax regulation coupled with the sheer scale of the betting market made it far more attractive to people wanting to manipulate it, such as those accused of match-fixing by Europol.

Gone were the movie images of people entering smoke-filled rooms with bags of money and betting slips. Today's gambling institutions most closely resembled international finance, with its banking, derivative trading and commodities trading, according to Eaton, a former Interpol operations manager.

"It's all done with algorithms and machines, almost like any commodity house in the US or London. The three largest houses each transact $2 billion a week - a hell of a lot of money."

To put this into perspective, Eaton said this sum could purchase four international-standard hospitals or pay for a thousand police officers for a year.

AFC offers support

Asian football’s governing body offered its support to an investigation by European police into the scandal.

The Asian Football Confederation said it was “fully prepared” to support institutions in the fight against corruption, although no organisation has yet made “formal contact” on the matter.

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