Feb. 4, 2013— -- An 18-month investigation from Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, has uncovered evidence suggesting that more than 600 soccer matches ranging from World Cup qualifiers to two Champions League matches might have been fixed. According to Europol's press release, the agency discovered "380 or more suspicious matches" in European and World Cup qualifying, with an additional 300 matches in Africa, Asia and South America.
The release also said that 425 match officials, club officials and players from 15 different countries, along with a Singapore-based crime syndicate, took part in attempting to fix soccer matches. However the agency would not specifically identify which individuals or clubs are being suspected.
"This is a sad day for European football and more evidence of the corrupting influence in society or organized crime," said Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol. "But this investigation also proves the value of international police cooperation in fighting back against the criminals involved."
Millions of dollars in corrupt payments and betting profits were also discovered, according to the report, including $10.9 million (8 million euro) in betting profits and $2.7 million (2 million euro) in payments to players and match officials. Several prosecutions are already underway. In fact, Germany has already convicted and sentenced 14 people to 39 years in prison.
"Match fixing is a global issue requiring strong partnerships at the national, regional and international levels," Gianni Baldi, the Head of Interpol's Drugs and Organized Crime Unit, said, according to the report. "Not only to target and dismantle the criminal networks making millions in illicit profits, but also to implement training programs to better protect all those involved in football."
According to Spanish newspaper El Pais, Europol officials showcase an example of the match-fixing in a December 2010 match between the under-20 national teams of Argentina and Bolivia.
This is yet another recent black eye for the sport. Last month, reports surfaced that Qatari World Cup officials, who helped seal the rights of the 2022 World Cup for their country, allegedly bought off several members of FIFA's Executive Committee. French magazine France Football published a 15-page article last week accusing several high-profile soccer and political figures, including former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and current UEFA president Michel Platini, of taking part in the scandal.
Santiago Wills contributed to this report.