Terry Steans Special Correspondent
THE sporting world is facing an unprecedented crisis. Thanks to globalisation — a phenomenon never previously seen — the sports gambling markets and organised crime have turned football into a cash cow and are now internationalised, as are the multi-national multi-ethnic criminal networks and illegal bookmakers that exploit them.
Football and sports leagues around the world are facing an extraordinary level of corruption and the risk of football falling into decay in the face of repeated scandals is genuine and must not be underestimated.
1 In mid-December 2015 Henrietta Rushwaya contacted me.
She told me that a person unknown, who she suspected to be Wilson Raj Perumal the convicted match-fixer, had contacted her.
I knew Wilson Raj Perumal from my time as Global investigations co-ordinator for the FIFA security department and had investigated him and his syndicate.
Wilson Raj Perumal is a cancer to the game of football.
2 Rushwaya was known to me as a person of interest in the Asiagate scandal and I met with her for the first, and only time, when in July 2012 she agreed to meet with FIFA investigators in Paris to share information and insight to assist our global investigation into match-fixing.
She spent three days with our team being informally interviewed and helping us to build our knowledge base and understanding of match-fixing.
3 When she contacted me back in December I discussed with her reporting the approach but this was difficult as FIFA were themselves mired in scandal and under investigation by the FBI and the Swiss police with some senior executives arrested and indicted.
It was difficult knowing who she could trust as she knew better than anyone the long reach Wilson Raj has inside football administration and having been the subject of investigation by ZIFA she did not feel comfortable going to them at that time.
4 She asked my advice about going to the police and I told her that I felt at that moment in time she had nothing to give to police that would allow them to open a case or utilise their resources. All she had was a WhatsApp contact from an unknown person.
5 Rushwaya then told me that she was thinking of playing along with the fixing group I told her that it was a dangerous game and that she should give it a lot of thought before making a decision, I also told her that she was the only one who could make the decision to take this on, that if she decided to go ahead she should take someone with her that she trusted preferably a police officer and that she should make people that she trusted in authority aware of what she was doing and finally that she should document every step, record phone calls, retain WhatsAapp conversations, flight and hotel information, e-mails and try to obtain both audio and video recordings if she could do so without putting herself at risk. I also told her that she could not act as an agent provocateur.
6 Match fixing/manipulation and corruption are regarded as two of the most difficult crimes to investigate.
There is often no scene of the crime, no fingerprint, no eyewitness to follow up. They are by their nature a very secretive crime and can involve just two satisfied parties, so there is no incentive to divulge the truth. Even if there are witnesses, they are often parties to the corruption themselves, hence tainted with doubtful credibility when and if they become prosecution witnesses in court.
The offenders can be equally as professional as the investigators and know how to cover their tracks. The offenders can also be very powerful and ruthless in enforcing a code of silence amongst related persons through intimidation and violence to abort any investigation.
In this modern age, the sophisticated corrupt offenders will take full advantage of the loopholes exploiting weak and infective sporting governance across-jurisdictions and in my experience they will acquire the assistance of other professionals, such as lawyers, accountants and computer experts in their clandestine operations and to help them launder their corrupt proceeds.
However, opportunities like the one Rushwaya was presented with, to be able to work on the inside are very rare and that makes police and anti-corruption officers to infiltrate the fixing gangs. It is usually the way that these situations arise completely out of the blue and there is no time for risk and threat assessment, it means that the investigator is reactive and thinking on the move and not proactive and working to a pre-planned strategy.
In her recent situation it meant that Rushwaya was improvising, adapting to varying situations and trying to overcome the suspicions of the fixers once they didn’t get their desired results. This is very, very difficult and very dangerous even with professional support and security on the ground.
7 Match-fixing and corruption investigations can be politically and commercially sensitive and embarrassing to a government, sporting association or corporation. The investigation can only be effective if it is truly independent and free from undue interference. This depends very much on whether there is a top to bottom will to fight corruption in the country, the association or in the boardroom of the corporation and whether the investigator has the moral courage to stand up against any interference.
8 That said, Rushwaya took the decision to proceed of her own free will and the evidence she has collected demonstrates that the fixing group did not achieve their objective to fix matches in SA, they were thwarted and did not get their desired results and that two people who introduced themselves as Robbie and Roberto did visit with her in South Africa to discuss match fixing in that country. Wilson Raj Perumal the man who instigated Asia Gate, the 2010 South Africa pre-World Cup fixes and was arrested by Finish police and prosecuted for match fixing was indeed still attempting to facilitate match fixing.
More interestingly for me she met with Chann Sankaran a man convicted for bribery and defrauding bookmakers, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment in the UK for attempting to fix matches in the Conference league. Having served two years of a five- year sentence he was released and deported from the UK on December the 15th 2015 and in February 2016 just 10 weeks later he was in discussions with Ms. Rushwaya about match fixing in South Africa.
The fixers also revealed in WhatsApp conversation their intention to try and fix matches at the Olympic games in 2016, although she didn’t get any hard evidence of their plans to do this the fact they shared this with her will make sure the IOC and FIFA who run the tournament are alert, vigilant and able to counter this threat. This information should also assist the South African government should they want to spread their current inquiry into match fixing in cricket across all sports.
9 I know this was not an easy decision for her to make having recently been cleared of the Asiagate scandal it always had the potential to open old wounds. Operating alone is never a comfortable experience and dealing with sometimes volatile and aggressive fixers can be frightening but the information that she has gathered can be of help to Police, FIFA, CAF, ZIFA, SAFA and football in general. Now is the time for her to sit down and tell people what she did, what she saw and what she heard, share her experience with them. This will be of benefit to both investigators and educators; it is another information building block, a small piece of the big picture that can help to build better protections for the game and the vulnerable individuals within it.
Confidentiality is essential to intelligence operations and investigation should be conducted covertly and confidentially, in the first instance at least before discipline or arrest action is ready, so as to reduce the opportunities for compromise or interference.
On the other hand, many targets under investigation may prove to be innocent and it is only fair to preserve their reputation before there is clear evidence of their corrupt deeds.
Hence it was essential Rushwaya did not disclose any details of the intelligence gathered or her investigation until she had reported her findings.
I cannot say what happened on the ground at any of the meetings that Rushwaya attended as I was not present, I can only say that she consulted me at first in mid-December for advice and again through January and February as events began to unfold. She asked for my advice on how to work on a match-fixing investigation and after she had completed her work, who and how she should report her findings too. I did not give tactical or any other support on the ground in South Africa before, during or after the documented meetings. She consulted me for advice and that was the extent of my involvement.
Where her actions right or wrong? Football is a game of opinions and I suspect that opinion will fall on both sides of the fence in this case but corruption erodes the very spirit of the game and if good men and women do nothing then the fixers will prosper.
• Terry Steans is an independent British consultant who specialises in fighting match-fixing and worked on the FIFA crack team to battle the cancer