Tory rejection of EU crime fighting is a 'risk' to UK's security
by Sarah Ludford
The football match-fixing revelations show up yet again just how reckless the British Conservative Party's rejection of such Europe-wide cooperation is and how much it puts our security - and the integrity of our football and other endeavours - at risk, warns Liberal Democrat MEP
In what British director of Europol Rob Wainwright has described as "the biggest-ever investigation into suspected match-fixing in Europe", the agency has today announced the discovery of match rigging in 380 top international FIFA and UEFA football games - including one Champions League tie in England.
These shocking findings call into question the integrity of European football. The extent to which match-fixing seems to have been prevalent is astonishing and casts a depressing dark cloud across the entire sport. Revealing such endemic corruption in one of our most popular national sports brings home to those fans, who perhaps do not usually follow European Union matters, the value of cross-border crime-fighting.
The scale of the investigation undertaken by Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency in coordination with 13 national police forces simply could not have been achieved by any single national government or football governing body. Over an 18-month period, it uncovered a crime syndicate based in Asia working with organised criminal networks throughout Europe. They are believed to have placed bets of €16m on rigged matches and made €8m in profits.
A total of 425 match officials, club officials, players, and serious criminals from more than 15 countries are suspected of being involved in these scams. And payments of €2m are thought to have been paid, with individuals getting as much as €140,000. Given results like these, it is beyond comprehension that British Conservative Party MPs - and even United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May - want the country to pull out of cooperative EU policing and criminal law measures.
They would sabotage the work of bodies like Europol, which are vital in bringing to justice organised criminals. The football scandal is very clear evidence that criminals do not respect national frontiers and that global crime requires an international solution.
And it is not just in football that Europol is assisting national governments in their efforts to fight mafia crime. Its record in tackling criminal gangs, with their fingers in a multitude of pies, is a strong one. Operation Golf - a joint investigation between Europol, the Metropolitan Police in London and the Romanian Police - broke up a criminal network operating a child trafficking ring in the UK and across the EU in 2010.
Some 121 individuals were arrested including seven in the UK and 28 children were released. Key European crime-fighting measures like the European Arrest Warrant have enabled the UK to bring back from abroad around 350 persons suspected of committing serious crimes - including rape, murder and human trafficking - since 2009.
In recent weeks, in the light of the events in Algeria and Mali, Cameron has stressed the importance of international and European cooperation to fight serious crime. It makes the Conservative desire to pull out of EU measures bizarrely contradictory. Cameron needs to remember that in 2005, 21/7 bomber Hussein Osman was extradited back from Italy in six weeks.
This would have been inconceivable before the European Arrest Warrant. British police, prosecutors, judges and other officials have made a disproportionate contribution to EU justice and catching of criminals.
The match-fixing revelations show up yet again just how reckless the Tory rejection of such cooperation is and how much it puts our security - and the integrity of our football and other endeavours - at risk. The Tories need to think again and not put ideological prejudice against Europe before public safety.
Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP is the British Liberal Democrat Party European justice and human rights spokeswoman