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The Italian police have made a significant breakthrough in the investigation into the global soccer match-fixing network with the arrest of a key suspect behind the alleged rigging of some 680 worldwide matches.
This developed as Singapore authorities announced that the Asian man said to be the brains of the cheating scandal is now cooperating with the investigation.
Authorities have arrested Admir Suljic, a former player from Slovenia at Malpensa Airport upon arrival from Singapore. Interpol said that Suljic's arrest was made possible by a tip from the Singapore police.
"The arrest of this suspected match-fixer could not have been achieved without Italy and Singapore's close cooperation with Interpol, nor without a great deal of behind-the-scenes work by prosecutors and magistrates," Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble said.
Suljic was taken to the northern city of Cremona, where he will be questioned by the prosecutors investigating more than 150 people in the case.
The main charge against Suljic is criminal association targeted to commit international sports fraud, the officials said.
Earlier, the Europol and other European law enforcement bodies have identified 680 matches worldwide that appeared to have been fixed over the past few years, including World Cup and European Cup qualifiers.
Allegedly, Suljic is a known associate of Tan Seet Eng, a Singaporean also known as Dan Tan, who has been implicated in suspected match-fixing cases dating back more than a decade.
According to Singapore police, Tan is currently assisting authorities in their investigations. It was not immediately clear if Tan's help had played a role in Suljic's arrest.
The Interpol has issued an international against Tan but Singapore has refused to extradite him.
Italian authorities believe that Suljic and Dino Lalic have served as the syndicate's main operators in Italy since 2008. According to prosecutors, Suljic and Lalic dealt directly with soccer players to manipulate the matches and enable illicit gambling.
They stayed at the same hotel as Tan on several occasions, and they also traveled with him in a car from Slovenia to Italy in 2009, authorities said.
Soccer faces an epic battle against match-fixing, as organised crime makes billions of dollars betting on rigged games. An AP investigation found corruption eating away at the world's most popular sport
The Dirty Game: Crime Gangs Prey on Soccer