Fraudulent betting and involvement of OCGs in sports corruption are not new developments. However, the involvement of OCGs in sports corruption is increasing in the European Union (EU) Member States (MS). In 2013, the European Parliament adopted a dedicated Resolution on match-fixing and corruption in sport2 calling to adopt a number of actions including the collection, exchange, analysis and dissemination of intelligence on match-fixing, fraud in sports and other forms of corruption in sport. The need for close cooperation between all stakeholders
concerned (e.g. sport organisations, licensing authorities, law enforcement bodies)in EU and beyond was stressed.
Also in 2013, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on online gambling in the internal market3, which underlined the risk of betting related match-fixing and money laundering through online gambling. The international legal framework to fight corruption in sport has been further enhanced, for example by the Convention on the manipulation of sports competitions4 (Macolin Convention, the first international legal instrument) adopted by the Council of Europe in 2014. This convention entered into force in September 2019 following its ratification in seven countries (Greece, Italy, Moldova, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, and Ukraine), while an additional 31 countries have signed it.
Corruption in sport as a serious crime on a global level has been further reflected in specific UN Resolutions, calling upon state parties ‘to enhance their efforts to prevent and fight corruption in sport’; stressing ‘the importance of robust legislative and law enforcement measures’; to ‘improve cooperation, coordination and exchange of information’; and to ‘further coordinate efforts to effectively mitigate the risks of corruption in sport’5.
The need to tackle this crime more effectively on an international level prompted the creation of a dedicated Europol operational project in 2014 (Analysis Project Sports Corruption) with the aim to support MS investigations. The above-mentioned European Parliament resolution on match-fixing and corruption in sport referred to exceptional operational results of 13 MS and Europol that uncovered an extensive criminal network involved in football match-fixing6. A number of additional major investigations targeting transnational OCGs operating in the field of sports
corruption and which have an impact on the EU have been successfully carried out ever since with the support of Europol.
Sports corruption is often addressed only from the perspective of sports integrity due to the lack of awareness (even among practitioners) on the involvement of organised crime. Europol continues to support investigations to dismantle criminal networks that launder their criminal profits through sports corruption or increase their illegal assets by manipulating sporting events worldwide.
Aim and objectives
The main goal of this report is to highlight the link between sports corruption, in particular match-fixing and organised crime and to increase awareness among practitioners and the public. The data received by Europol on this phenomenon is by no means exhaustive, but still enables us to describe relevant modi operandi and links to organised crime and the most active OCGs.
This situation report provides an insight into how the international criminal groups are involved in sports corruption, their characteristics and structure as well as the way criminal networks operate and cooperate. OCG money laundering activities through sports corruption are also described. In addition, the report examines the types of match fixing as the most prominent form of sports corruption monitored by Europol and looks into the Asian betting model. Furthermore, particular insight is provided into the most targeted sports by criminal networks with a focus on football and tennis.