Integrity of the game in Australasia being called into question.
Six men have been charged in a multi-million dollar match-fixing probe into Australian state soccer, including a Malaysian and a Briton.
The charges relate to the alleged manipulation of results mainly for overseas betting at an obscure second-tier Melbourne side called Southern Stars.
The Australian Associated Press identified the prime accused, Gerry Gsubramaniam, 45, as a Malaysian.
Victoria state police said he faces 10 charges linked to corrupting the outcome of a betting event.
Gsubramaniam appeared before a late Sunday night court hearing where detective Scott Poynder described him as the contact point for players.
“He receives phone calls. He is given advice on how the Southern Stars players are to perform.”
Poynder said at least five games had been identified as “highly suspicious”.
Gsubramaniam requested bail but was remanded to appear before Melbourne Magistrates court later Monday.
“Some of the bets are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Poynder told the court.
Goalkeeper Joe Wooley, 23 and reportedly a British national, and the team coach were among five men each charged on eight counts linked to corrupting the outcome of a betting event. They were all bailed to appear before magistrates on September 20.
Four other men arrested on Sunday were released pending further inquiries.
The Sydney Morning Herald said the authorities suspected the “world’s biggest match-fixer of masterminding” the scam.
Singaporean Tamil Wilson Raj Perumal was at the centre of the investigation and believed to have recruited the British players from minor leagues, despite being under Hungarian police protection as a supergrass in local match-fixing cases, it said.
Southern Stars president Ercan Cicek told reporters that five players were brought in from England at the start of the season by an unnamed man who also offered to set up sponsorship.
The Stars have played 21 games in the Victorian Premier League, losing 16 and drawing four. In their only victory they beat the league’s top side.
The arrests followed a tip-off from the Football Federation of Australia, with the organisation’s chief David Gallop saying the governing body had been alerted by international betting watchdog Sportradar which had detected suspicious activity.
Reports put estimated winnings in Australia and overseas from the fixed matches at more than $2 million, with organised crime syndicates involved on Asian betting markets.
Match-fixing charges can attract a 10-year maximum jail sentence in Australia and lifetime football bans can be applied worldwide.