TEN MEN, including a number of well-known current and former soccer players in Limerick, were arrested this morning as part of an investigation into alleged match fixing in the League of Ireland.
The ten suspects, aged from their 20s to their 60s, were arrested in early morning raids in Limerick and Dublin, and were being detained “on suspicion of the offence of Conspiracy to Defraud contrary to Common Law”, Gardaí said.
The ten men were detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 at various stations in the Southern Region and Dublin Metropolitan Region. A Garda spokesperson said several residential properties in Munster and Leinster were targeted, “as part of Operation Brookweed, a “day of action in relation to match-fixing in the League of Ireland”.
The investigation, led by the Garda Anti-Bribery and Corruption Unit attached to the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB), began in 2019 following tip-offs from football’s European governing body Uefa to the FAI.
“A lot of them are players, a significant number, and, as a result of a complaint Gardaí received in 2019 about match results and betting patterns, that investigation has been tipping away in the background and lots of work has been going on and it’s now culminated in ten arrests this morning,” said a reliable source.
“Up to eight arrests were in the Limerick area and one or two in the Dublin region, they were all male. It was initially reported to Gardai by the League of Ireland/FAI regarding concerns they had about unusual results and betting patterns, which got attention in 2019.”
“Gardaí have done diligence work on bank accounts and phone records and IT records which they recovered from the searches.
“I suppose it’s not just about money. It’s about the whole integrity of the sport, and, whatever about the group allegedly involved in the match-fixing and whatever money they may be making, it is also impacting on every other punter who is putting a bet on a game and who thinks they are betting on a genuine game and suddenly the result goes somewhat differently.”
“Results of games affect placings in the League of Ireland table and it effects what clubs qualify for European competitions so, the ramifications are much bigger than a small group of people and what they are trying to do themselves. There is a much wider impact,” added the source.
Detective Superintendent Catharina Gunne, GNECB, said: “Match-fixing and corruption is a threat to all sports at all levels and undermines public confidence in the fairness of sport. It can allow organised crime to infiltrate sport in order to use it to make illicit gains or launder proceeds of crime”.
In January 2020, Gardai discovered evidence of betting, cash, and a stun gun as part of the same match-fixing probe.
At the time Gardaí searched properties in Limerick City and uncovered mobile phones, computers, as well as €20,000 in cash, however no arrests were made then.
The searches followed the setting up of two investigations into unusual betting patterns on matches involving Limerick FC during September 2019.
Gardai seized mobile phones from a number of Limerick FC players after the FAI confirmed it was investigating unusual betting on a FAI Cup match.
A Limerick sportsground was searched on September 3, 2019, and documentation and electronic devices were recovered by Gardaí.
Following the Garda raid, Anthony Kelly, the chairman of Hill Celtic in Rathbane, confirmed that Gardaí swooped on the club’s grounds armed with machine guns.
Speaking following the raid, Mr Kelly said that when he arrived at Hogan Park, he was met by a “blockade of armed Gardaí”.
Mr Kelly said he did not know why the club was being raided and that the match-fixing probe had “nothing to do with Hill Celtic”.
“They wouldn’t show me the warrant and when I asked who was the Garda member in charge, they wouldn’t disclose that to me. I’m the chairman of Hill Celtic and I’m responsible for the ground here, and they wouldn’t let me in.”
Mr Kelly said he was shocked at the presence of armed Gardai, complaining it was “very heavy handed”.
Following Wednesday’s arrests, Gardaí appealed to anyone with information in relation to match-fixing or sports corruption, to make a report in confidence to the Anti- Bribery and Corruption Confidential Reporting line – 1800 40 60 80 — or to their local Garda Station.