Investigators said Perumal has a long history as a match-fixer and a broad array of contacts in soccer. He boasted in a letter from prison: ‘‘I can pick up the phone and call from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.’’
When arrested, he had numbers stored in his phone for people in 34 countries. He carried a business card with a FIFA logo that described him as ‘‘executive manager.’’
Perumal wrote from prison that he started fixing matches in Asia in the early 1990s.
‘‘I grew up in a region where football betting and match-fixing was a way of life. Gradually I developed the ability and the expertise to execute the job myself,’’ he said.
He claimed to have paid off players in Syria and Africa and spoke of fixes in the U.S. and in Bahrain, as well as games involving teams from North Korea, Kuwait, Zambia, Bolivia, Venezuela and Togo. Zimbabwe linked him to widespread corruption and fixes involving its players and soccer association.
Perumal also is suspected of rigging games involving South Africa before it hosted the 2010 World Cup. FIFA determined that Perumal’s company, Football4U, was a front for his betting syndicate and infiltrated the South African Football Association.
In Finland, Perumal told police how he distributed bundles of cash — tens of thousands of dollars at a time — to corrupt Finnish league players, including a 56,000-euro bribe handed over in a stadium lavatory in 2010.
In a prison letter, he lamented that ‘‘all corrupt players and officials are like whores who will walk with the highest bidder. There is no loyalty in this business.’’
But he felt no guilt about his role.
‘‘I have had players thanking me for giving them this opportunity and telling me how much this money will change their lives,’’ he wrote. ‘‘The only people who get affected are the illegal bookmakers, and they dissolve their losses in the massive turnover of profits.’’
Perumal had been in and out of jail repeatedly in Singapore. In 2010, he was given a five-year sentence for injuring a police officer. He appealed but then skipped town. Singapore police spokeswoman Chu Guat Chiew told the AP that Perumal is still wanted in Singapore.
In his prison letters, Perumal said he lived unnoticed in London while on the run, jogging daily around Wembley Stadium and attending Premier League matches on weekends. The handwritten prison letters were sent via Perumal’s lawyer to a journalist, Zaihan Mohamed Yusof of the New Paper in Singapore.
If not for peculiar circumstances in Finland, Perumal might never have talked.
His arrest came on a tip from an informant, also Singaporean, who walked into a police station in Rovaniemi in northern Finland in February 2011 and told the duty officer that Perumal was in the country on a counterfeit passport and staying at the Scandic hotel, Finnish police told investigators. But the informant gave police the wrong room number, so they detained the wrong man, who was later released.
Once armed with the correct room number, police tracked down Perumal and put him under surveillance to be sure that they had the right man, said Eaton, the ex-FIFA security chief who is now director of integrity at the International Centre for Sport Security, a Qatar-backed group funding research into match-fixing.
Finnish police followed Perumal to a game and saw him in heated discussion with a player. That piqued their curiosity and prompted them to contact soccer officials. They, in turn, got word to Eaton at FIFA, who already had Perumal on his radar and immediately recognized the significance of the Finnish catch.
‘‘It was like a bell went off, an alarm went off, in my office,’’ Eaton told the AP. If the police hadn’t tailed Perumal and had just picked him up and sent him home for traveling on a fake passport, they might never have realized he was fixing matches and he might never have decided to cooperate, Eaton said.
‘‘It would have been virtually a blip instead of the explosion it really was,’’ Eaton said.
Before his arrest, Perumal had been gambling heavily, built up debts and bilked his syndicate by pocketing money meant to be used to fix matches, Eaton added. He said Perumal also had become too high-profile for Tan, who is believed to be in Singapore.
Perumal ‘‘was on Facebook. He was on LinkedIn. He was on Twitter,’’ Eaton said. ‘‘Perumal’s attitude was, ‘This makes me more valuable, more known by players, more known by the people I want to corrupt and influence.’ Dan Tan wanted him to be more discreet.’’
In a prison letter, Perumal alleged that the tip to Finnish police was an effort by his associates ‘‘to get rid of me.’’Continued...