HELSINKI (AP) – A Singapore man was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday for bribing players in the Finnish football league as part of an international match-fixing scam.
The verdict against Wilson Raj Perumal and nine players from the local team in Rovaniemi, near the Arctic Circle, highlighted the global reach of billion-dollar betting scams that have rocked the sport this year.
The Lapland District court said Perumal netted about ?150,000 ($210,000) for fixing results in Finnish league matches from 2008-11. He is also suspected by world governing body FIFA of fixing international games involving African and Asian national teams.
Perumal, who was arrested in February after having entered Finland with a fake passport, was also convicted of forgery and for trying to flee from officials guarding him.
The Finnish match-fixing scam focused on the RoPS team from Rovaniemi. In its ruling on Tuesday, the court handed suspended sentences ranging from six months to 20 months to seven Zambian and two Georgian players of the Rovaniemi team for accepting bribes of ?11,000 to ?40,000 each to affect the outcome of matches.
The court said 24 Rovaniemi matches were fixed, and that Perumal's involvement was proven in seven of them. It said he also fixed two other Finnish league matches, involving the Oulu and Mariehamn teams.
Perumal was ''an associate'' in a group of six people from Asia and Eastern Europe specializing in ''manipulating football games globally,'' the ruling said. The syndicate allegedly netted up to ?1.5 million per game for match-fixing worldwide.
Perumal's role ''included organizing games and tournaments, communicating with players, referees and other key persons, and developing new ideas regarding match-fixing,'' the court said.
FIFA believes Perumal organized an infamous match last September, sending a fake Togo team to Bahrain for a friendly that the unwitting host easily won 3-0. Perumal also has links to fixing involving Zimbabwe internationals in the Far East.
Finnish prosecutors have said three other match-fixers were involved in the Rovaniemi case but they have not been able to establish their identities.
It wasn't immediately clear whether Perumal, who confessed to some of the charges, would appeal. His defense lawyer Pertti Poykko said Perumal did not wish to comment on the verdict.
In Finland, first-time offenders who are sent to prison normally serve only half of their sentence, minus time served during the investigation. This means Perumal, who has no criminal record in Finland, could be released as early as February or March next year.
When setting his sentence, the court said it ''took into account that his criminal activities had been planned and that he had acted as a member of a group formed for the sole purpose of betting manipulation.'' His cooperation with authorities was seen as a mitigating circumstance.