JOHANNESBURG — A soccer referee named Ibrahim Chaibou walked into a bank in a small South African city carrying a bag filled with as much as $100,000 in $100 bills, according to another referee traveling with him. The deposit was so large that a bank employee gave Mr. Chaibou a gift of commemorative coins bearing the likeness of Nelson Mandela.
Later that night in May 2010, Mr. Chaibou refereed an exhibition match between South Africa and Guatemala in preparation for the World Cup, the world’s most popular sporting event. Even to the casual fan, his calls were suspicious — he called two penalties for hand balls even though the ball went nowhere near the players’ hands.
Mr. Chaibou, a native of Niger, had been chosen to work the match by a company based in Singapore that was a front for a notorious match-rigging syndicate, according to an internal, confidential report by FIFA, soccer’s world governing body.
New York Times Investigation Finds Brazen Corruption At The World Cup
The Times published its findings on the non-public report and the results of the paper's own investigation on Saturday, a little less than two weeks before the massive soccer tournament is slated to begin in Brazil.
According to the Times article, FIFA found a notorious match-fixing syndicate had infiltrated the last World Cup in South Africa and fixed at least 5 matches. FIFA also found the syndicate was probably helped by South African officials, who were either "easily duped or extremely foolish."
When an official did try to put a stop to the match-fixing, the syndicate made a death threat against the official, according to the Times' account of the FIFA report.
From the NYT article , key takeaways below ....
FIFA, which is expected to collect about $4 billion in revenue for this four-year World Cup cycle for broadcast fees, sponsorship deals and ticket sales, has relative autonomy at its headquarters in Zurich. But The Times found problems that could now shadow this month’s World Cup.
■ FIFA’s investigators concluded that the fixers had probably been aided by South African soccer officials, yet FIFA did not officially accuse anyone of match fixing or bar anyone from the sport as a result of those disputed matches.
■ A FIFA spokeswoman said Friday that the investigation into South Africa was continuing, but no one interviewed for this article spoke of being contacted recently by FIFA officials. Critics have questioned FIFA’s determination and capability to curb match fixing.
■ Many national soccer federations with teams competing in Brazil are just as vulnerable to match-fixing as South Africa’s was: They are financially shaky, in administrative disarray and politically divided.
Ralf Mutschke, who has since become FIFA’s head of security, said in a May 21 interview with FIFA.com that “match fixing is an evil to all sports,” and he acknowledged that the World Cup was vulnerable.
“The fixers are trying to look for football matches which are generating a huge betting volume, and obviously, international football tournaments such as the World Cup are generating these kinds of huge volumes,” Mr. Mutschke said. “Therefore, the World Cup in general has a certain risk.”
Mr. Chaibou, the referee at the center of the South African case, said in a phone interview that he had never fixed a match, and he denied knowing or having ever spoken to Wilson Raj Perumal, a notorious gambler who calls himself the world’s most prolific match fixer and whom FIFA called one of the suspected masterminds of the South Africa scheme.
“I did not know this man,” Mr. Chaibou said. “I had no contact with him ever.”
Mr. Chaibou said FIFA had not contacted him since his retirement in 2011. He declined to answer any questions about money he may have received in South Africa.
The tainted South African matches were not the only suspect ones. Europol, the European Union’s police intelligence agency, said last year that there were 680 suspicious matches played globally from 2008 to 2011, including World Cup qualifying matches and games in some of Europe’s most prestigious leagues and tournaments.
“There are no checks and balances and no oversight,” Terry Steans, a former FIFA investigator who wrote the report on South Africa, said of the syndicate’s efforts there in 2010. “It’s so efficient and so under the radar.”
Think this is a matter of the past ?