Italian police have arrested a man suspected of being a high-profile football match fixer. The suspect is believed to have travelled to Italy with the intention of turning himself in.
Police identified the suspect as 31-year-old Slovenian national Admir Suljic, who they described as a “key element” in their investigation into match-fixing in Italy between 2009 and 2011. They also believe him to be an associated of alleged match-fixing boss Tan Seet Eng, commonly known as Dan Tan.
"His [Suljic's] direct involvement in the international criminal group, made of Singapore nationals and people from the Balkans, has emerged from the investigation," a police statement said.
Police were waiting for Suljic when he arrived at Milan's airport on a flight from Singapore early on Thursday. They said he had only bought a one-way ticket and had planned to turn himself in. He was to be taken to a prison in the city of Cremona.
Suljic, who stands accused of "criminal association aimed at sporting fraud," is just the latest of more than 50 people arrested by Italian police in the operation dubbed “Last Bet.” More than 100 others are under investigation.
A series of match-fixing trials have led to a number Italian teams receiving point deductions or being fined. Second-tier Serie B side Lecce were relegated to Serie C as a result.
The big fish
Speaking to reporters at a conference on match-fixing in Malaysia on Thursday, the secretary general of Interpol, Ronald Noble, said the arrest was "important because the world believes that law enforcement can't do anything to take down this criminal organization, the world believes that (Tan) and his associates can't be touched, that they are above the law,"
He also expressed the hope that the suspect taken into custody would "cooperate with law enforcement and tell us all he knows."
Italian authorities have also issued an arrest warrant for Dan Tan, a Singapore national whom they accuse of earning millions of euros by rigging matches and betting on them.
Singapore police have so far declined to arrest Tan, but have said they are reviewing information submitted to them about the case against him.
Thursday's arrest comes two weeks after the European law-enforcement body Europol announced that it had uncovered evidence of match-fixing in more than 380 games between 2008 and 2011. Europol said its investgation also found evidence of involvement by a Singapore-based crime organization.
pfd/msh (Reuters, AP, dpa)