Match-fixing suspicions widen to cover ten Finnish football games
Authorities detain six players of Zambian origin on suspicion of involvement in match-fixing; Singapore man suspected of orchestrating the affair remains in custody
The National Bureau of Investigation (Finland’s central criminal police) has widened its probe into match-fixing allegations in Finnish football to cover already around ten separate matches.
Most of these games took place last season, but some of them were played in this season’s Finnish League Cup.
On Tuesday the NBI carried out six new arrests in different parts of Finland. Four of the detained individuals are players from the Lapland football team Rovaniemen Palloseura (RoPS), while the other two played for AC Oulu last season. All six are Zambian nationals.
Among the detainees is for example Dominic Yobe, who transferred from AC Oulu to HJK Helsinki for this season.
“The police apprehended him at the airport when the team returned from a training camp in Marbella”, explained HJK managing director Kari Haapiainenon Tuesday.
The other man detained yesterday was Yobe’s brother Donnewell Yobe, whose new team is Oulun Palloseura.
“This has nothing to do with OPS. He played with AC Oulu last season”, OPS team leader Miika Juntunen told Helsingin Sanomat last night.
AC Oulu head coach Juha Malinen did not want to comment on the guilt or otherwise of the Zambian players, but he understood the police’s actions.
”For us the Yobe brothers were more Finnish than the Finns themselves. It is difficult to believe that they would have influenced the outcome of any of our matches”, Malinen said.
Wrapped up in the same tangled web is also the previously arrested Zambian-born RoPS striker Christopher Musonda and a Singapore man, who is suspected of having organised the match-fixing.
The apprehended players are suspected of having accepted bribes while the Singapore man is accused of bribery.
According to the NBI, it is likely that the players have received fees for seeking to affect the outcome of the played matches.
According to Detective Superintendent Jukka Lakkala from the NBI Rovaniemi unit, who is in charge of the investigation, it has emerged that some of the played games resulted in the hoped-for outcome, while others did not. For the time being, Lakkala did not want to reveal the sums of the bribes paid.
The teams concerned are currently not suspected of involvement in any wrongdoing.
They merely appear in the case in the role of a witness and a plaintiff.
“HJK has nothing to do with the case”, Haapiainen emphasised. “We will assist Yobe and his future in the team will be decided upon once the matter has been resolved.”
According to Lakkala, the NBI’s current aim is to find out how extensive the match-fixing operation has been and if there is reason to suspect others than just the apprehended Singapore man over the organising of the bribery.
The authorities have until the end of May to go ahead with the prosecution. According to Lakkala, the time schedule is realistic provided that the case does not expand any further.
“So far we have no plans to take anyone else in for questioning”, Lakkala adds.
The Singapore man is suspected of having tried to affect the outcome of the Finnish League Cup match between RoPS of Rovaniemi and Tampere United in Rovaniemi’s Ounashalli Arena on February 23. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.
According to information obtained by Helsingin Sanomat there has been unusual interest towards the RoPS and AC Oulu matches, particularly in Asian betting markets.
The betting scam suspicions do not extend to games on the coupons of the Finnish national lottery and pools organisation Veikkaus.
The betting scam scheme started to unfold in late February when the Singapore man was apprehended at Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport under suspicion of having stayed in Finland under false identification.
As we reported a few days ago, the Finnish FA recently cancelled a planned friendly game between the national side and Bolivia over concerns that the match, to be played in Turkey, was subject to match-fixing ambitions.
An earlier Finnish international has also been fingered as the target of tampering with the outcome. In these cases, no suspicions were attached to Finnish parties.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finland-Bolivia football friendly was cancelled over match-fixing suspicions (10.3.2011)