World soccer mired in illegal betting scandals

World soccer is reeling with revelations of match fixing from Turkey to Zimbabwe. International law enforcement is starting to comprehend the scope of sophisticated organized crime networks involved in the fixing, a practice that has been ongoing for decades, but recently ramped up, the New York Times reported yesterday. In a handful of countries, entire soccer programs are at stake.

In Turkey, top officials are meeting to determine whether to delay the upcoming season pending an investigation, the Voice of America reported. More than 60 people have been arrested in a scandal that has shaken confidence in the staunchest fans. Turkish officials met with Europe's football governing body UEFA in Geneva to admit allegations of match fixing and fend threats of banishment from European football competitions.

In South Korea, prosecutors have charged more than 46 more soccer players from six teams who allegedly took bribes in return for trying to fix games or bet on matches after learning their outcome would be rigged, the Associated Post reported earlier this month. Prosecutors also found the outcomes of 15 K-League matches were rigged this year.

In Zimbabwe, the soccer association (ZIFA) released a 160-page report detailing match fixing by betting syndicates from 2007 to 2010. Syndicate representatives paid amounts totaling $50,000 for each of the matches that were fixed, the report said, according to sport24.

Last year, Zimbabwe captain Method Mwanjali and four team mates admitted taking money to lose matches on a 2009 tour to Thailand and Malaysia. Zimbabwe lost 3-0 to Thailand and 6-0 to Syria and the players said they were paid between $500 and $1,500, the AP reported.

Up to 90 billion euros are spent each year on legitimate soccer bets, the World Lottery Association estimated, but they also estimate an additional 90 billion is spent on illegal betting.

Law enforcement attributed the rising number match fixes to criminal operations based in Singapore, Malaysia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the New York Times reported.