But the quiet Singaporean was in fact Wilson Raj Perumal, a convicted match-fixer on the run from the police, who was busily masterminding an international empire from his one-bedroom flat in the shadow of Wembley Stadium.
Perumal arrived in London in July after skipping bail in Singapore on charges of hitting a police officer with his car. He rented a flat under a pseudonym, Rajamohan Chelliah, and paid six months’ rent up front to compensate for being unable to provide any references.
Duly satisfied, the landlord did not probe any deeper into his tenant’s past. If he had, he would have discovered 13 convictions for forgery, assault, burglary and match-fixing dating back to 1983.
Perumal, a member of Singapore’s Tamil minority, soon became involved in Wembley’s lively Sri Lankan community and paid a satellite engineer to install Tamil cable channels at his flat.
It was only when he disappeared in February that those who knew him became suspicious.
Perumal had travelled to Finland, where he was arrested on February 25. He is being held on suspicion of bribing 11 players to manipulate matches in the Finnish leagues.
Investigators at Fifa and Interpol believe he is responsible for fixing matches in several countries, standing to make hundreds of thousand of dollars in illegal profits.
He is accused of fielding a bogus team masquerading as Togo’s national side in a rigged match against Bahrain last September, and bribing Zimbabwean players to throw matches against Thailand, Malaysia and Syria in 2009.
Raj’s jail experience chronicled
He was first jailed for match-fixing in 1995 when found guilty of paying a football captain US$3 000 to throw a game, and was convicted again in 2000 for attacking Ivica Raguz, a player in Singapore’s Woodlands Wellington team, in an attempt to harm the side’s chances in a forthcoming match.
Perumal is wanted in Singapore after being sentenced to five years for running over a police officer outside Changi airport in May 2009.
He skipped bail and fled to England.
Telephone records seized from his hotel room in Finland show a global network of contacts including national football association executives, employees at major betting firms and criminal financiers.
Contacts at five national football federations are stored on his mobile, along with numbers for several current and former international players and referees.
The match-fixer had also signed up to a Finnish pre-pay service called DNA Käyttöpalvelu, which allows users to call a single 0800 number to be connected to stored contacts which will not then show up on their bill.
The bulk of the 57 British numbers stored on his phone are assigned to pay-as-you-go mobiles. But some of the numbers have provided investigators with a glimpse of the seedier side of his life in London.
At least one of the numbers was for a Lond
on-based escort agency. Others have been linked to individuals who are suspected of aiding him with the running of his match-fixing empire.
A month after his arrest in Finland, police raided his Wembley flat in search of evidence of British links to the scam. They did not find anything. Chandra Ratna, a close associate of Perumal in London, said he had already emptied the flat on Perumal’s instruction.
The 55-year-old told The Daily Telegraph: “Wilson told me to clear the flat and I gave the key to the landlord. He told me that he was going away and not coming back. We threw all his stuff away.”— Guardian
How match-fixing gangs make money out of football
FIFA’S investigators believe that even with an outlay of more than US$300 000 to stage, an international mini-tournament can still deliver profits of “tens of millions of dollars” thanks to the millions of small gamblers across South-east Asia, and a much smaller number of big players.
It is thought fixers under investigation by Fifa placed hundreds of bets in units of US$2 500 or US$5 000 with numerous outlets to avoid alerting bookmakers to their interest in particular bets. They are understood to have focused on markets for total goals and handicaps favoured in Asian betting.
The amount of money gambled in the Far East, both legally and illegally, far outstrips that in Western markets. The total worth of the market in Asia is estimated at US$800 billion while the legitimate UK market is worth just US$135,5b according to a 2008 Gambling Commission study.
The Asian market appeals to fixers for other reasons. Massive bets can be made at short notice without arousing suspicion and bookmakers offer markets on matches in small leagues that European bookmakers would not touch. The bookmakers need to offer a huge volume of games to satisfy the punters so fixers target those matches in countries with low salaries which make bribes more tempting.
Gambling is illegal in much of the Far East, including China, so Manila and Singapore are the industry’s hub. Manila bookmakers offer a huge range of games online across the world, taking advantage of the Philippines’ lack of regulation to give better prices than rivals.
The main attraction, though, is the amount gambled on football. “The liquidity comes from a group of several hundred very wealthy gamblers who are betting millions on games,” said Andrew Gellatly, of Gambling Compliance. “Fixers can either use their knowledge to hurt these wealthy gamblers or work in complicity with a bookmaker to offer a more aggressive price on a game to which they know the outcome.”
Bookmakers offer in-play handicap betting which makes it difficult to spot attempts to fix until it is too late. The censorship delay in China, which means the television signal comes through 15-20 seconds late, means the bookmakers employ “spotters” at every game on which they offer bets.