The Red Flags of Malarkey

In life, there are certain phrases that mean the exact opposite to their stated meaning. For example, the term “world-class” usually means that something is parochial, petty and provincial. You do not see signs in Paris or Rome advertising “world-class” projects, but you do in just about every small-town across the globe. “Centre of excellence” (mediocre and deeply unoriginal) is another term, but the best is when someone looks you in the eye and says, “I am going to be completely honest with you.” This usually means that the malarkey is just about to start, however, thanks to their sub-conscious, a large red-flag has been raised to warn you that they are now going to start talking nonsense.

The AFC/Interpol Conference against Match-Fixing is about to start in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Given both of these organizations failure to act credibly against sports corruption it will be, unless there is a dramatic change in their operations, a sham, a farce and perilously close to a cover-up. There will, presumably, be lots of flags flying outside the conference centre, but as a public service, here is a list of some of the red-flags of malarkey that you may hear at the conference. These are the signals that will be hoisted just before someone starts to talk nonsense.

1) The Arrest Clock – First of all, as a public service here is a tool to give accountability to some of the malarkey statements. On Wednesday, November 28th, 2012, the Head of Interpol Ron Noble announced in Singapore that there would a series of imminent arrests of match-fixers in that jurisdiction. Now if you are like me, you might think imminent arrest means that the police cars are warming up their sirens, the officers are buckling on their swat jackets and the gang of fixers are frantically running through their apartments trying to destroy as much evidence as possible.

However, in the Interpol–Singapore Gangnam Style of policing imminent arrests means that the prospective criminals get to flush any incriminating evidence down the toilet, destroy their hard-drives, throw away their mobile phones, vacuum their apartments, do the washing up, cook their wives dinner, pick the kids up from school, go to the casino, take a holiday, maybe fix a few more matches to keep their hands in. You know – imminent arrests.

Therefore, I have instituted the “Very Official Interpol/Singapore ‘Arrest Clock’” to see how long it takes the Singaporeans to get out from behind their desks and actually arrest an internationally wanted match-fixer in an imminent manner.

To this date, it has been twelve-weeks since the fixers in Singapore received a loud, clear and unmistakable signal to destroy any proof of their activities, but possibly, they may need some more time. The VOISAC (police bureaucrats loves acronyms!) measures clearly the time it takes to imminently arrest them. For any journalists attending the conference, just refer to the clock when you hear any official statement, if they have not made the ‘imminent arrests’ what credibility do they have for any new measures?

2) Operation SOCA – it is a sign of the inexperience and naivety of many of the other journalists covering this story that they give Interpol any credibility for this police action. In fact, if you see a reporter citing Operation SOCA in their articles, you can immediately dismiss their work as a mixture of fantasy and raw credulity. If you see any Interpol or AFC official citing this operation in a presentation, you can do likewise.

For the uninitiated, Operation SOCA is a joke. It is shadow puppet theatre. It is law enforcement by and for media relations. What happens every year is that Asian police forces go out and arrest a bunch of street gamblers. Often these operations are conducted with the help of the top-bookmakers. The officials then make a series of po-faced announcements where they say things like, “a serious blow against sports corruption” or “an unrelenting battle against the King-pins of Fixing”. At the Interpol conferences, Operation SOCA gets brought up repeatedly. It is a joke and should be treated as such.

Don’t believe me? Take the word of Joe Pistone a.k.a. Donnie Brasco – one of the best undercover cops of the FBI. Here is his perspective, when I described police actions against gambling in Asia:

“Right, and they make a bust. I mean, that happens here in the States too. They make a bust and they arrest some nobodies, so it looks like they’re doing something. I mean, that’s the old game, that’s not something new…

“It keeps the newspapers happy, it keeps the people happy, you know, the citizens happy, that, you know, the police are doing something. Somebody gets arrested. You know, somebody of no consequence. And they make sure that there’s not that much money there at the time. I mean, that’s not a new game. That game’s been around forever.”

To understand, say the following mantra – ‘Gambling is not fixing. Gambling is not fixing. Gambling is not fixing.’ What they are doing in Operation SOCA is arresting a lot of lowly bettors who have no more to do with fixing than the office pool on the Super Bowl or the World Cup does with organized crime. Police forces have to make these operations periodically against things like prostitution to keep up their media image.

3) Interpol’s Arrest Warrant for Dan Tan: To repeat, Dan Tan is an internationally-wanted alleged match-fixer living in Singapore. There is a mountain of legal evidence against him for his activities in numerous countries.

There’s an Interpol international arrest warrant, but Interpol is – now – trying to spin that the arrest warrant they served as not really an ‘arrest warrant’ it was more like an international parking summons, well, actually more like an international parking ticket, that governments and suspects can ignore if they do not want to pay the fine. Please! This is spin. Poor old Interpol is in a crisis of credibility over their entire campaign against match-fixing. Bless them, but take their statements with the seriousness they deserve.
There will be other red-flags of malarkey flying over the AFC-Interpol Conference (“match-fixing is a long, complicated war that will never be solved” etc) but these should help any sports official or journalist when the obvious nonsense is being spun.

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