Match Fixing and Money Laundering
Annual Socio-Legal Studies Association Conference, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen 9-11 April 2014
12 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2014 Last revised: 5 Aug 2014
Date Written: April 14, 2014
This essay is premised on the following: a conspiracy to fix or otherwise manipulate the outcome of a sporting event for profitable purpose. That conspiracy is in turn predicated on the conspirators’ capacity to: (a) ensure that the fix takes place as pre-determined; (b) manipulate the betting markets that surround the sporting event in question; and (c) collect their winnings undetected by either the betting industry’s security systems or the attention of any national regulatory body or law enforcement agency.
Unlike many essays on this topic, this contribution does not focus on the “fix”– part (a) of the above equation. It does not seek to explain how or why a participant or sports official might facilitate a betting scam through either on-field behaviour that manipulates the outcome of a game or by presenting others with privileged inside information in advance of a game. Neither does this contribution seek to give any real insight into the second part of the above equation: how such conspirators manipulate a sports betting market by playing or laying the handicap or in-play or other offered betting odds. In fact, this contribution is not really about the mechanics of sports betting or match fixing at all; rather it is about the sometimes under explained reason why match fixing has reportedly become increasingly attractive as of late to international crime syndicates. That reason relates to the fact that given the traditional liquidity of gambling markets, sports betting can, and has long been, an attractively accessible conduit for criminal syndicates to launder the proceeds of crime. Accordingly, the term “winnings”, noted in part (c) of the above equation, takes on an altogether more nefarious meaning.
This essay’s attempt to review the possible links between match fixing in sport, gambling-related “winnings” and money laundering is presented in four parts.
First, some context will be given to what is meant by money laundering, how it is currently policed internationally and, most importantly, how the growth of online gambling presents a unique set of vulnerabilities and opportunities to launder the proceeds of crime. The globalisation of organised crime, sports betting and transnational financial services now means that money laundering opportunities have moved well beyond a flutter on the horses at your local racetrack or at the roulette table of your nearest casino. The growth of online gambling platforms means that at a click it is possible for the proceeds of crime in one jurisdiction to be placed on a betting market in another jurisdiction with the winnings drawn down and laundered in a third jurisdiction and thus the internationalisation of gambling-related money laundering threatens the integrity of sport globally.
Second, and referring back to the infamous hearings of the US Senate Special Committee to Investigate Organised Crime in Interstate Commerce of the early 1950s, (“the Kefauver Committee”), this article will begin by illustrating the long standing interest of organised crime gangs – in this instance, various Mafia families in the United States – in money laundering via sports gambling-related means.
Third, and using the seminal 2009 report “Money Laundering through the Football Sector” by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF, an inter-governmental body established in 1989 to promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system), this essay seeks to assess the vulnerabilities of international sport to match fixing, as motivated in part by the associated secondary criminality of tax evasion and transnational economic crime.
The fourth and concluding parts of the essay spin from problems to possible solutions. The underlying premise here is that heretofore there has been an insularity to the way that sports organisations have both conceptualised and sought to address the match fixing threat e.g., if we (in sport) initiate player education programmes; establish integrity units; enforce codes of conduct and sanctions strictly; then our integrity or brand should be protected. This essay argues that, although these initiatives are important, the source and process of match fixing is beyond sport’s current capacity, as are the possible solutions.
Keywords: match fixing, money laundering, crime, corruption, sport
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