As the three men suspected of trying to manipulate the scorelines of football matches await sentencing today after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit bribery, the National Crime Agency has released some interesting detail on the case and explains why it moved to break up the proceedings when it did.
Earlier this week a jury at Birmingham Crown Court found that Chann Sankaran, a Singapore national, and Krishna Ganeshan, a UK national originally from Sri Lanka, were the central conspirators in the match fixing plot, and had recruited Michael Boateng, a player from Conference South team Whitehawk FC, to help them. A fourth man, Hakeem Adelakun, was acquitted. There will be a retrial in respect of a fifth man, on whom the jury was unable to reach a verdict
The NCA investigation into the men’s activities began when the Daily Telegraph presented the agency with evidence from its own undercover investigation. Over a seven day period in November 2013, NCA surveillance of the men provided enough evidence to secure their convictions, despite the failure of their plot to fix a match between AFC Wimbledon and Dagenham & Redbridge on 26 November.
NCA branch commander Richard Warner said: “The Telegraph’s investigation suggested that Sankaran and Ganeshan were coming to the UK intent on fixing football matches. Our priority when they arrived was to determine the extent of their plans and identify any networks they might have had access to.”
Sankaran and Ganeshan flew into Manchester airport on 21 November 2013. The NCA deployed surveillance teams to watch and listen to the men over the following days. Their meetings and conversations built up a picture of a concerted effort by the pair to secure a large sum of investment cash, engage and corrupt footballers to influence the scoreline of matches, and pass information to a wider overseas network to make money by betting on the outcomes.
The pair came under pressure when players failed to show for a meeting with an investor on Friday 22 November. They spent the rest of the weekend ‘frantically’ trying set up another meeting and finally succeeded in arranging one to take place on Monday 25 November in Croydon.
At a Croydon coffee shop, Sankaran and Ganeshan met with Hakeem Adelakun and Michael Boateng of Whitehawk FC, a Conference South team based near Brighton. The investor handed over €60,000 in cash to Sankaran and Ganeshan which, unbeknown to the men, had been marked by the NCA. Shortly after the investor left, the four men reconvened outside some public toilets in Croydon, where Ganeshan and Sankaran gave €450 to the players.
Back in Manchester the following day and now carrying around a large quantity of Euros, Ganeshan and Sankaran faced the task of exchanging the cash for Sterling without raising suspicion. They visited a number of money exchange bureaux and transferred some of the money overseas.
From that point on there was a clear shift in their plans. They began to focus their efforts on trying to influence the scoreline of a match between AFC Wimbledon and Dagenham Redbridge, due to be played on Tuesday 26 November. They started telephoning contacts overseas with the message that ‘the game is on, we’ll give you the score’.
On the afternoon of 26 November, the pair went to a betting shop in Manchester to place bets on the game themselves – around £1,000 in total, for a League Two match at the other end of the country.
They then caught a train to Euston and went to the AFC Wimbledon ground. At half time, with the score at 0-0, it began to look unlikely that the promised scoreline might materialise. Sankaran left for a local curry house whilst Ganeshan stayed for the second half, joining him at the restaurant shortly before full time when the 1-1 score left no doubt that the plan had failed.
When NCA officers took the decision to go in and arrest Sankaran and Ganeshan the men were carrying over £3,000 in cash between them. Michael Boateng and Hakeem Adelakun were arrested in the following days.
Warner added: “The NCA is in no doubt that Ganeshan and Sankaran were at the very beginning of a concerted attempt to build a network of corrupt players in the UK. Their aim was to influence play so that they could make spot bets and manipulate scorelines to generate large sums of money. They clearly had links to business-like networks overseas.
“This is not sport as a football-loving nation recognises it. It is corruption and bribery linked to serious organised crime, and the NCA is determined to stop criminals benefiting from it. The evidence in corruption cases is often either verbal or visual. Unless you are there when money changes hands, or plans are made, that evidence is gone. We had a vital opportunity here to intervene early, secure the evidence to get convictions, and put a stop to Sankaran’s and Ganeshan’s much wider and more sinister ambitions.”