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FIFA joins forces with Interpol on illicit betting

ZURICH, Switzerland, May 10- World football's governing body FIFA said Monday that it would fund an Interpol training programme to help tackle match fixing and irregular betting thought to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

"The threat of match-fixing in sport is a major one, and we are committed to doing everything in our power to tackle this threat," said FIFA president Sepp Blatter in a statement after a meeting with Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble.

FIFA also announced that it would add an investigation task force to its betting monitoring unit, bringing it close to practice at European football’s governing body UEFA.

"Joint work with the authorities and with Interpol is crucial for success," Blatter said, vowing zero tolerance and underlining the need for preventive measures.

Senior sports officials have repeatedly warned that they cannot tackle illegal betting, which is often intertwined with organised crime, and its consequences without the power of full court-backed investigations by law enforcement agencies.

Interpol has estimated that illegal football gambling is worth up to hundreds of millions of dollars in Asia alone each year.

"Illicit betting and match-fixing rings have demonstrated their global reach to fundamentally undermine football from one continent to another by corrupting administrators, officials and players and they require a global response," Noble said.

FIFA will contribute 8.0 million euros to its Anti Corruption Training Wing at Interpol in Singapore over the first two years, followed by 12 million euros over the following eight years.

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International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge warned in March that sports as a whole was in danger from an estimated 140 billion dollars a year in illegal betting worldwide.

Rogge has repeatedly expressed the fear that illegal and irregular betting threatens the credibility of popular spectator sports through match or results -fixing.

During last year’s World Cup, 155 million dollars in illegal bets were prevented in a joint police operation in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, according to Interpol.

Meanwhile, officials from football’s ruling body FIFA are expected to arrive in Malaysia next week as part of its global crackdown into match-fixing on three continents, a report said Tuesday.

"We wrote to FIFA over the allegedly match-fixing scandal last week after reading about it," Azzuddin Ahmad, general secretary of the Football Federation of Malaysia (FAM) was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times newspaper.

"We will… assist FIFA in whatever way possible," he added.

FIFA is investigating claims that over 300 matches on three continents were influenced by match-fixers.

The report said FIFA’s full investigation into match-fixing has led to two Malaysians, adding that Chris Eaton, FIFA’s head of security, will lead a team of investigators to interview several people here.

Employees from at least six different national football associations are under suspicion of assisting the criminal network, which is thought to work out of Singapore and Malaysia.

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FIFA suspects match officials were paid as little as $10,000 to help engineer specific results in international friendly matches and European club games, netting fixers hundreds of millions of dollars on Asian betting markets.

"The threat from match-fixing to the integrity of the global game is significant," Eaton, a former Interpol official said last week.

FIFA fear the upcoming under-17 and under-20 World Championships are at risk.

The newspaper said FIFA would also investigate two Malaysia-Zimbabwe friendly matches played in 2009.

Malaysia won both matches but FIFA subsequently revoked the status of the games after it was determined that a Zimbabwean club side had taken the field rather than the national team.

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