Apr03

Fake Airplane Parts and Match-Fixing (Yep, there is a link!)

Categories // Blog

Did you know there is a major and well-established industry for counterfeit airplane parts?

The same kind of industry that churns out fake designer bags, pirated DVDs and fraudulent high-fashion clothing makes low-cost counterfeit airplane parts.  This is serious stuff.   Most of us do not really care if the pseudo-Rolex watch that we once bought for $10 falls apart after three weeks, but we sure do care that some civilian airlines (and military hardware) are equipped with potentially dodgy mechanical parts.

In all the discussion of the Malaysian flight MH370 I have seen little serious analysis about this issue.  I have read and seen innumerable mainstream media stories about grieving families, the wonderful technical capacities of Boeing planes, the purported flight path over the Indian Ocean and reams and reams of speculative nonsense. 

My personal favourite are the news reports about the purported “suspicious” activities of the pilot. Some coy twerp of a journalist comes on my screen and says things like,

The pilot had a flight simulator. It seems he used it to practice emergency landings on remote airfields near his regular flight path. The FBI are now examining this lead.”

[Subtext translation: “Mad pilot – no one to blame here, except one crazy employee”].

The response of any normal person is to think,

“Crikey, the pilot sounds great!  I want my planes to be flown by a person so dedicated and responsible that in his off-hours he practices emergency landings.”

However, for all the speculation, all the nonsense and all the twitterings in the mainstream media, I have yet to hear or see a thoroughly responsible and good investigation into the counterfeit airplane parts industry and its potential link to the MH370 disappearance. 

I am not suggesting that a counterfeit engine part is necessarily the answer to why a modern, well-maintained (we hope, but again, we have not seen the maintenance/repair logs) jetliner mysteriously disappears.  However, I do want to point out that, once again, the mainstream media and its orthodox journalists have mostly failed – despite enormous amounts of resources – to bring you a potentially important aspect of a story.

For all the regular readers who use this blog to check up on the fight against match-fixing, you may be wondering if there is a connection?

Yep, here it is.

To review:

Singapore and Malaysian football is deeply corrupted.  It is suffused with match-fixing.  Not every game, nor every team, but fixing scandals occur so frequently that no one is surprised when they do occur. 

Here is the second important truth:

Many of the people who fixed football matches Malaysia and Singapore have gone around the world and fixed games in dozens of different countries, leagues.

Repeat – much of the reason why “match-fixing is not limited to Malaysia and Singapore” is because of Malaysian and Singaporeans fixers. 

Why is this important?  

Because if you want to stop match-fixing in your own league, you have to stop it in its two principle source countries of Malaysia and Singapore.

All this begs the question – why do few other people say the things that you read on this site?

There are – now - dozens of match-fixing experts, consultants and journalists who write reports of varying quality about the problem.  Yet few of them will stand up and publicly say,

Get the Asians to arrest their match-fixers and put them on a public trial so we can solve (for now) much of this problem.”

It is a little like the counterfeit airplane parts non-discussion.  There is a systemic aspect to this question.   Just as counterfeit parts is an issue that few inside the airline industry want to discuss publicly.   So too coming up with realistic solutions to solving match-fixing is not what the anti-match-fixing industry wants to do.   If you could solve the issue cheaply by arresting and putting on public trial the gangs of fixers (and some of the prominent people who finance their industry) it would stop the flow of cash into the anti-match-fixing industry: all the grants, all the research monies, all the international conferences would stop.  

The worst offender is Interpol.  This is the same organization that has had such wonderful success in their War on Drugs and against DVD Piracy.   They are applying their same dreadful techniques to their war against match-fixing.  In other words, they are not saying what needs to be said.   Instead they are hosting innumerable conferences around the world with (mostly) non-expert experts who trot out and speak nonsense.

For example, we hear an interminable discussion about “educating the players on the ethics of match-fixing”.  The joke is that the people teaching "ethics" to the players will be, most likely, from FIFA, their national football federation or some other ethically-challenged organization.   So you will have - mostly - well-paid, morally-ambiguous "experts" teaching - mostly - impoverished young athletes about right and wrong.

What is the link to the mainstream media?   Well, again like the non-discussion of the counterfeit airplanes parts, most journalists (but not all) have been swayed by an internal industry agenda.  Rather than seeing the current wave of match-fixing as a relatively easy process to stop, they have been influenced to describe it as complicated process far too difficult to stop.

The message is simple: go arrest the Asian fixers, put them on trial so the world can find their rich, politically-connected backers.  The problem can be stopped for the next few years and we can start focusing on real life and death issues - like the counterfeit airplane parts industry. 

Mar19

Malaysia: a disappeared plane, match-fixing and hidden agendas

Categories // Blog

It was a shocking sight.

Two distraught, afraid-to-grieve relatives of the passengers in the disappeared Malaysian Airline flight MH370 escorted out of a room by police because they had dared speak to journalists.

I have held back from posting a second article in the series about Malaysian-Singaporean involvement in match-fixing as it seemed inappropriate with such a tragedy going on.  However, after watching the news coverage of the disappearance of the Malaysian plane for two weeks, it is clear a couple of things are happening and, oddly, they link back to the match-fixing situation in this country:

1)    The international media is doing their usual technological colonialism.  It is the same thing that we have, sadly, seen from the fiasco of the Vietnam War, to the utterly failed ‘War on Drugs’, to the current drone attacks on innocent Pakistani civilians.  Cannot win a war, because the people you are backing are a bunch of corrupt, dissolute thugs?  Use expensive technology!    

I see technological colonialism when I am invited to speak at international journalism conferences:  a group of western media types descend to give the locals lessons in the latest high-tech gizmos (currently, it is something called ‘data journalism’).  It seems to occur to few western journos to actually reverse the paradigm and try to learn from the people on the ground as to what may be occurring in their country and society.

In the story about the missing airplane, the international media analysis is all about technology: purported satellite tracking, GPS locators, flight simulators, blah, blah.  We hear about this technology, than some highly-intelligent expert in a suit, sitting thousands-of-miles away from Malaysia explains what the technology does.  

They are all missing the point.   To understand what happened to the Malaysian airplane, we need to understand more about the culture of Malaysia.

2)    It is clear that there are a number of agendas going on in Malaysia that are hindering the search.  This is where international investigators should begin their trail.  Not in what government officials claim happened in the sky, but when did local people know and when did they speak out about it.

I am not accusing the Malaysians of blowing up their own plane or deliberately hiding their knowledge of the plane’s whereabouts.  However, I do think, that knowing Malaysian society, there are probably a number of powerful institutional agendas that are getting in the way of the search for the truth.

Jolly interesting:  but what is the link with match-fixing in football?

Well, the same thing occurs in the ‘investigations’ against fixing in Malaysian (and the neighbouring, but culturally very different, Singapore).

To repeat:

Here is the important truth:

Singapore and Malaysian football is deeply corrupted.  It is suffused with match-fixing.  Not every game, nor every team, but fixing scandals occur so frequently that no one is surprised they occur.

Here is the second important truth:

Many of the people who fixed football matches Malaysia and Singapore have gone around the world and fixed games in dozens of different countries, leagues.

These facts beg the question: why have Malaysian and Singaporean officials been so slow to stop fixing and corruption in their sport?

It seems a pretty straight-forward thing to do.

After all, they have known for twenty years that fixers were preying on their sport.

The Singaporeans – as I have said repeatedly over the last couple of years – have had judicial evidence and international arrest warrants directly naming specific individuals as being involved in fixing.

A few months ago, the Singaporeans finally got around to arresting some of these fixers (Dan Tan, etc).  They did not put them on trial, so they could publicly testify to the extent of their network or their accomplices.  Rather they are holding them as ‘terrorists’ in indefinite detention.

Why?

Part of the reason is that it is very difficult to meet Malaysians or Singaporeans who believe that the match-fixing corruption in their football does not go very high in their societies. 

They make this claim because, despite all the investigations and trials, not a single high-ranking official, politician or businessmen in those countries has ever been connected with match-fixing. 

I am not accusing specific Malaysian or Singaporean officials of participating in this corruption, but I am saying that pretty much every Malaysian and Singaporean that I interviewed believed that some of their prominent people are involved.  Here are a few - typical - quotes from the latest book - The Insider’s Guide to Match-Fixing:

 

**

Policeman:             I do remember that one of the police officers: one of the lead guys in the [Malaysian match-fixing] investigation. We caught him meeting with one of the bookies that we were trying to investigate. We put a tail on him and we got a phone call from the people who were tailing him. He was meeting with the Chinese bookie.

Hill:                         Do you arrest him?

Policeman:            No, it would have been too embarrassing

Malaysian police officer.

**

Our team was run by a group of top politicians and I am not saying they were fixing, but I am saying that there were very strong rumours and suspicions around themfor several years.  I can't accuse him. You have to get proof. These guys are untouchable. You are talking about corruption at the highest level of society. If there is corruption going on at the level that there is no hope, the game has absolutely no hope.

Former Malaysian Player.

**

We lost nearly an entire generation of players, but if you are going to tell that there is no corruption now I wouldn't believe you…. We had circumstances where the entire team, including substitutes, were in on the fix. 

Senior Malaysian Football Official.

**

[The Fixer told me] ‘Okay easy to talk. But I control your coach. I brought in your two foreigners. I paid the transfer fees for them, not the state FA.”

Transcript of a Royal Malaysian Police interview with one of the players arrested and exiled for fixing.

I make no accusations against specific individuals. What I do say, is that I heard dozens of rumours and stories from well-connected people about various triad groups, high-level businessmen, senior football officials, top-ranking players and various well-connected members of the aristocracy being involved in match-fixing.  What I am also saying is that when most Malaysians and Singaporeans believe this is what is going on, it hinders proper investigations, whistle-blowing and reporting of corruption.

The link to the current investigation into the missing plane is that dollars to doughnuts – those same kinds of stories are currently making the rounds in Kuala Lumpur.   There is a silent, war of hidden agendas that is hindering the investigation.  What is needed to find the fate of Malaysian Airline Flight MH370 and to stop fixing from occurring around the world is for senior, external investigators from outside these agendas to step in and properly investigate.

 

Feb22

Comedy, Chutzpah and Malaysian/Singaporean Sports Officials

Categories // Blog

“[it is not fair to single out Malaysia and Singapore]… match-fixing is a problem limited not just to Malaysia and Singapore football.”

There is a great Yiddish joke about the definition of chutzpah.

“Chutzpah is when a man murders his mother and father and then begs mercy from the court because he is an orphan.”

I thought about this joke and laughed very loudly when I read a story about Malaysian and Singaporean football officials complaining about me because I said match-fixing was deeply entrenched in their football  ('Brisbane Times' newspaper article from earlier this week).

There are some events, some quotes, some stories in journalism that are so funny, so deeply comic that you could not make them up.   The only thing to do when hearing about them is to laugh long and hard. 

If there were a competition for Chutzpah – the sports officials of Malaysia and Singapore might win gold medals.  (Sadly, you cannot say the same thing for the Malaysian and Singaporean national teams as their FIFA rankings have declined significantly since the systemic infestation of match-fixing in their leagues).

However, despite the humour this is a very important story for football-lovers around the world.   Let us start at the beginning. 

I like Malaysia and deeply respect its culture.  Part of the reason why I like the country and its society is that when I was doing my research there I met very few people who did not openly speak about how its football league was corrupt.  Tunkus, Dattos, (Princes and Lords), cabdrivers, journalists, players, coaches, fans, policemen, sports officials, fixers - men, women – just about everyone spoke about what a corrupted mess their sport was in. 

This is pretty unusual stuff for Asia.  Singapore, for example, is largely composed of officials who bravely say things like, “Lee Kuan Yew is brilliant”  - but little else.

To be fair to Singapore, it is a much less corrupt country than Malaysia and the ruling political party (Lee Kuan Yew’s lot) have done a generally good of governing their society.  However, the Singaporeans are often so afraid of open discussion that they have restricted, on occasion, The Economist and thrown political opponents in jail. 

Here is the important truth that must be repeated constantly:

Singapore and Malaysian football is deeply corrupted.  It is suffused with match-fixing.  Not every game, nor every team is fixed -  but fixing scandals occur so frequently that no one is surprised when, as happened earlier this season, an entire Malaysian team was banned for fixing their games.

Here is the second important truth that must be repeated constantly:

Many of the people who fixed football matches in Malaysia and Singapore have gone around the world and fixed games in dozens of different countries and leagues.

Repeat – much of the reason why the ‘match-fixing is not limited to Malaysia and Singapore’ is because of Malaysian and Singaporeans fixers. 

Why is this important?  

Because if you want to stop match-fixing in your own league, you have to stop it in its two principal source countries of Malaysia and Singapore.

This is not to say that there are not local fixers, but what they are often doing is hooking up with the Malaysians and Singaporean fixers.  The local fixers fix the match (they know the players, the coaches, etc): the Malaysians and Singaporeans fix the gambling market.

Want to stop this current wave of globalized match-fixing?

Put pressure on the Malaysian and Singaporean governments to properly investigate and publicly prosecute the culture of match-fixing that permeates their leagues.

There is no one better to stop this wave of match-fixing than properly tasked Asian law enforcement arresting and putting on trial Asian criminals. 

We do not need more conferences.   We do not need more ‘education courses’.  We do not need more committees studying the problem.

We just need one European politician or senior sports official from FIFA, IOC or UEFA standing up and saying, 

“Malaysian and Singapore unless you put all the fixers that are operating in your country on a public trial and show that you are ready to seriously root out this problem, you will not be welcome in international sport.”

It really is that simple.

This current wave of globalized match-fixing can be beaten that easily.

Next week:  The truly shocking story of why the Malaysian, Singaporean football officials and some Interpol and ‘anti-match-fixing experts’ do not want to discuss these facts.

 

Feb18

On Saving Figure Skating

Categories // Blog

There is, of course, an easy way to save figure skating from its credibility problem. 

It is not brain surgery. In fact, it is so easy you have to wonder why no has done it.

Professional judges.  Currently, the figure skating judges are appointed by their own national federations.  So you have a ‘Russian judge’, a ‘Canadian judge, an ‘American judge’ – this is an inherent conflict of interest.

The International Skating Union (ISU) should appoint 20 – 30 professional judges. They should pay them (finding a sponsor would be relatively easy), train them, and assess them.    At major competitions like the Olympics which judge is appointed to which competition should be decided by an open to the public blind drawing of lots.  Therefore, no one would know who was to judge which competition. 

All the scores of each judge should also be publicly posted, so any potential corruption can be quickly identified.

There you go – a quick, simple and easy way to resort credibility (and excitement) to the battered sport.

Why change the system?  After all, it is 'only' the international competitions like the Olympics Ice Dancing/Figure Skating competition that have these credibility problems.

The answer is simple – the system needs changing because there are hundreds-of-thousands of people who participate in the sport around the world.    There are parents who get up before dawn to take their children to the rink: there are volunteers who clean the ice, ensure the changing rooms are warm or coach and organize community events. 

For these people – the lifeblood of the sport – to have reasonable doubts about the integrity of the very top competition in their sport is a betrayal.   They, and millions of fans, deserve better.  Finally, the skaters, the athletes who have spent years of their lives training deserve to know that their sport is not only clean, it is seen to be clean.

Final note:            There is an excellent article from the New York Times on this issue. You can find it here - nyti.ms/1eNxNjy 

 

 

Feb12

Figure Skating – the sport that corruption killed

Categories // Blog

The memories came flooding back when watching more Olympic figure skating and listening to – yet again – credible news of another alleged stitch-up between Russian judges (and this time) the Americans. 

A few days ago, L'Équipe the French newspaper - reported an off-the-record interview with a Russian judge who spoke of an alleged fix between the Russians and Americans. The purported fix was thought to be an old-style arrangement, the kind that has been around sport for thousands of years.  Essentially, the American judges would help the Russian team, if the Russian judges would help the American team.  

Quite why the Russians, allegedly, feel they need to fix the competition is beyond me.  They have a superb team of skaters. However, if a fix is going on it might be the ‘senza dubbio’ (without doubt) factor that the great American author Joe McGinniss reported of in his exposé of arrangement fixing in Italian Serie A football.   

Senza dubbio fixing is when a fix is arranged by a strong team who is expected to win.  They fix, because even the remote chance that the expected result does not occur would be a disaster for them.   Arguably at the Sochi Olympics, with Putin and the rest of the world looking on, there is a similar pressure on the Russian figure skating officials. 

If the alleged arrangement fix is in place, it still seems a little silly.  However, figure skating as a sport, in my opinion, still has that smell of complicity of corruption coming off it.  It still gives the impression of a world of backroom deals.   It still does not seem to have truly learned the lessons of the 2002 scandal where part of their Olympic competition was discovered to have been fixed between the French and Russian teams with the alleged help of a prominent mobster.

This destroyed the credibility of the sport.  Figure skating used to be a huge sport.  Massive.   It is still relatively large, but compared to its hey-day in the 1990s, figure skating is a shadow of itself. 

In the 1990s, the battle between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan was one of the most watched television programs ever.   That event was, fair enough, about more than the skating (Harding’s boyfriend had set up an attack on Kerrigan, so that Harding would win) but the television broadcast ratings were up there with some of the historic Apollo lunar missions.

Back in 2000, I was part of a team from Canadian television (CBC) – Francine Pelletier and Ann Marie Redmond – who revealed that there were regular judging quid pro quo between the Russian and French teams to arrange the results of the competitions. 

We even found out that the then-head of the Canadians had been approached to arrange an event by the Russians.  The executive had refused, but he did not run to the hills (the media) screaming about the corruption attempt, rather he publicly shut up about it.  When we put it to him in our televisied interview, the prat had the nerve to be upset. 

We were also able to obtain public, on-the-record interviews with a number of judges who had been party to the arrangements.  

Remember this was all two years before the 2002 Olympic disaster.  Imagine if those skating executives had actually heeded what we broadcast. They might have been able to save their sport.

Here then are a few thoughts as I switch off figure skating and turn to other, presumably cleaner, sports at the Winter Olympics:

1)    The allegations of fixing in figure skating are, of course, completely reasonable.  We do not know if they are true, but they could be.

2)    Here is why – most of the people in the sport are still there.  The same gang of genial incompetents who helped manage the sport into disrepute in 2002 are still in charge. 

This would be almost impossible in any well-run corporate or democrat milieu: imagine a chief executive or prime minister overseeing such a fiasco and still being in power.  But in the rarefied world of sports it is pretty standard that Ottavio Cinquanta the head of the International Skating Union (ISU) is still there.

So too is David Dore, the former hapless president of the Canadian skating world. He is no longer head of the Canadians, but has received a position as an official of the ISU.  I do not think that Mr. Dore has ever been corrupt, but I do presume this type of position in figure skating comes to those who are nice fellows and who do not publicly rock the boat too much.

3)    Most of the judges and officials seem to be still there. The exception being, the poor French judge in 2002, who had a momentary crisis of conscience – that revealed the arrangement fix.

4)    So too are many of the journalists who cover the sport.  There are a few exceptional, excellent ones, but for the most part figure skating journalists are a venal set of toads.  

I do not use those words lightly and they are certainly no surprise to the good figure skating journalists. 

One example, our Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) had the rights to the figure skating championships in those days.   We, the investigative journalists, wanted to show in our program the long series of screw-ups, dodgy competitions, etc, that plagued the sport.  The sports department would not release the tapes.   In my far-distant youth, I thought this was some bureaucratic snafu that could be cured by a personal visit to their library.  I showed up, met the sports librarian – who was a decent and kind soul.  I got the tapes, loaded them into our editing deck and brought them back.   The next week we broadcast our show.  You might have thought that our sports colleagues would have been universally happy to be associated with such a morally-strong and factually-accurate broadcast.  Not a bit of it.   One of the very senior executives of CBC sports wrote us a memo accusing us of ‘stealing’ their tapes and asking that I be severely disciplined (My bosses laughed).

This kind of complicity on the part of figure skating journalists is, sadly, not a surprise.  I repeat there are a few, very exceptional journalists on that beat who tackle corruption. The rest are a bunch of spineless worms. 

Again, I use these terms advisedly.    Here is why. In their cowardice they contributed to the generalized Omertà (mafia code of silence) that pervaded figure skating.   In this dreadful little ‘sport’ you could find lots of people who knew that competition-rigging and corrupt judges were relatively commonplace, but you could find precious few who had the courage to stand up and denounce it.

This betrayed the athletes.  I spoke to dozens of former and current figure skaters.  They all reported that they knew that the backroom deals went on, but if they ever spoke out publicly against them, the same backroom cabal that was ruining the sport would punish them.

This was the overall message I took from figure skating.  Most people who had courage, morality and the decency to stand up and fight for a clean competition risked their careers and were often thrown out of the sport: most people who simply went along with the status quo, got ahead.

5)    I want to single out one exceptional journalist.   There are, despite my condemnation of the majority of figure skating journalists, some excellent ones (who will not be surprised at my comments about their colleagues).  However, the Radio-Canada figure skating commentator at the 2002 Olympic Figure Skating competition after the marks were given to the Canadians that robbed them of their medal – simply refused to comment.  Live - on air – he refused to say anything about the next pair of skaters. He simply said, “This is not skating.”

If only the rest of the figure skating world would do the same.

[12 3 4 5  >>  

Twitter

 

Copyright © 2013 Declan Hill. All Rights Reserved.