Is soccer completely rigged? You'd be forgiven for thinking that, in light of a Europol investigation released today that identifies 680 matches authorities suspect were fixed for gambling purposes. The alleged culprit: an Asia-based organized crime syndicate. Authorities suspect at least 425 people, including players and both match and club officials, are involved in the conspiracy, which touched the highest echelons of European and international soccer. This is "a sad day for European football," says Europol's director.
Criminal gamblers bet an estimated $21.7 million on matches for a $10.8 million profit, CNN reports. To make the scheme work, they doled out bribes of as much as $190,000. The allegedly fixed games included World Cup qualifiers, European Cup qualifiers, and two Champions League matches. The New York Times reports that the 19-month investigation was spurred by investigators' realization that there was "a major overlap" in some of the names that were popping up in separate game-fixing probes. (Read more soccer stories.)