Match-fixing the new drugs for criminals
German prosecutors have said criminals are turning from drugs to match-fixing as they view it as a low-risk means of making money.
Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, has uncovered allegations of match-fixing in around 380 games across the continent between 2008 and 2011.
Germany has been at the centre of two match-fixing scandals over the past decade. Operating out of Berlin bar Café King, an organisation reportedly led by Croatian national Ante Sapina had been involved in a match-fixing scandal with German referees. Sapina was given a prison sentence in 2005, but upon his release had turned towards the Asian betting market, utilising a London-based bookmaker.
Sapina, along with Marijo C, was then convicted of fraud by a Bochum court and sentenced to a further five-and-a-half years in prison having confessed to manipulating more than 20 football matches, including a 2010 World Cup qualifier between Liechtenstein and Finland and a Champions League qualifier between Hungarian side Debrecen and Italian club Fiorentina.
In December 2012, the Federal Court of Justice of Germany had ordered a retrial for the case as both defence and prosecution had issues with the original hearing.
The prosecutors, preparing for the retrial, had provided a starting point for the Europol investigations, and Bochum superintendent Friedhelm Althans, head of the "Flankengott" ["God of the crosses"] commission, has warned that criminals have come to view match-fixing as an attractive means of raising cash.
"The problem is getting bigger," Althans said. "More people with criminal tendencies have come to realise that you can earn a lot of money with a lower risk. Some have turned from drugs to match-fixing."
He urged all involved in investigating match-fixing to view the practice as "organised crime". Chief prosecutor Norbert Salomon has stressed that there are no new games under investigation in Germany.