By Patrick Johnston
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The secretary general of law enforcement agency Interpol lauded the work of Singapore authorities on Monday for arresting the 'mastermind' of the world's largest and most aggressive soccer match-fixing syndicate last week.
Ron Noble did not reveal the identity of the ringleader arrested by Singapore's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) last Tuesday but it is believed to be Singaporean Tan Seet Eng.
Italian prosecutors have accused Tan, also known as Dan Tan, of heading an organization to fix soccer matches worldwide and Italian police have issued an arrest warrant for him.
The 'mastermind' was one of 14 people arrested, 12 men and two women, under the Prevention of Corruption Act and for their involvement in organized crime activities relating to match-fixing.
On Monday, the ministry of Home Affairs said nine of the 14 had been released on bail while the other five were still being questioned.
"I'm confident that Singapore law enforcement authorities have arrested the mastermind and leader of the world's most notorious match-fixing syndicate," Noble told reporters in Singapore.
"It is significant because this syndicate is considered the worlds largest and most aggressive match-fixing syndicate with tentacles reaching every continent and the masterminded was someone many believed was untouchable."
European police shone a spotlight on Southeast Asia in February when they announced a Singapore-based syndicate had directed match-fixing for at least 380 soccer games in Europe alone, making at least eight million euros ($10.81 million).
A further 300 suspicious matches were identified in Africa, Asia and Latin America including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships, and the Champions League for top European club sides.
"I was very, very proud of Singapore because for so many years Singapore has been criticised for not investigating when in fact the evidence wasn't sure with Singapore because of the ongoing criminal investigations in Europe," Noble said.
"I was really proud that Singapore conducted this investigation on its soil, using its own laws and resources and we were able to bring some of the people to justice."
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(Editing by John O'Brien)