How are organised crime groups involved in sports corruption?
Europol publishes its report, The involvement of organised crime groups in sports corruption. The report highlights the link between sports corruption and organised crime: the characteristics of criminal networks, their structure and their modus operandi. In addition, the report analyses the different types of match-fixing as the most prominent form of sports corruption monitored by Europol.
Sports corruption is a serious crime involving organised crime groups operating transnationally, these gangs are often poly-criminal and can well serve as a platform for organised crime groups to further high-scale money laundering schemes. The global annual criminal proceeds from betting-related match-fixing are estimated at €120 million. Online betting is increasingly used by organised crime groups to manipulate sports competitions and criminals usually target lower-level competitions across different sports, with football and tennis the most targeted sports by criminal networks.
Football remains the most targeted and manipulated sport by international organised crime groups due to its worldwide popularity, financial dimension and the large turnover betting market attached to it. Criminals more often target players having a specific role within the team (e.g. goalkeepers, defenders, captain of the team) as these players are more ‘valuable’ for match-fixers than others, as a simple mistake can easily lead to the conceding of a goal without raising suspicion.
Individual sports competitions like tennis with a limited number of key participants (e.g. players and/or chair umpires) are an even easier corruption target for match-fixing gangs. Detection of match-fixing schemes in tennis has increased and Eurasian organised crime groups have been found to be heavily involved in tennis match-fixing.
Fraudulent betting and the involvement of organised crime groups in sports corruption are not new developments. However, the involvement of these criminal groups in sports corruption is increasing in the EU Member States. In 2013, the European Parliament adopted a dedicated Resolution on match-fixing and corruption in sport calling to adopt a number of actions including the collection, exchange, analysis and dissemination of intelligence on match-fixing, fraud in sports and other forms of corruption in sports. Since then, the international legal framework to fight corruption in sport has been further enhanced. The need to tackle this crime more effectively on an international level prompted the creation of a dedicated Europol operational project in 2014 (Analysis Project Sports Corruption) with the aim to support Member State investigations.
Europol, through its Economic and Financial Crime Centre (EFECC) continues to support investigations to dismantle criminal networks that launder their criminal profits through sports corruption or increase their illegal assets by manipulating sporting events worldwide.