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Veikkaus CEO: Big risk of financial crime in competitive sports

The outgoing chief executive of the state lottery company Veikkaus, Risto Nieminen, says criminals are increasingly targeting lower division sports for money-making opportunities. His comments came during the money laundering trial of two bosses from a Pori football club.

Risto Nieminen uskoo SM-liigan kiinnostavuuden säilyvän.
Outgoing Veikkaus CEO Risto Nieminen. Image: Yle Etelä-Savo

Speaking during the trial of the Pori football club owner and his right-hand man, Veikkaus CEO Risto Nieminen said that developments in information technology and the growth in the commercial value of sports over the past ten years have made it possible for criminals to operate in the sports betting arena.

“Manipulation targets many sports, not just football,” Nieminen added as he testified in the Pori trial on the basis of his research into sporting crime.

Threats, extortion and bribery

Nieminen, who is also the President of the World Lottery Association, said that Finland is no exception in terms of the emergence of crime in competitive sports. He added that a central feature of such crime is the presence of organized groups from Asia.

“Football is a global sport which generates interest across the world. From the manipulation perspective there are also interesting targets in lower division series and criminals are always looking for these kinds of opportunities,” Nieminen pointed out.

The researcher told the court that manipulated sporting events could be orchestrated by threatening, blackmailing or bribing referees, players or other persons who can in some way affect the outcome of a game.

“The many possibilities in betting also create opportunities for all kinds of fraud. Instead of the result of a match, we generally bet on events in the game, such as corner kicks or who receives a warning. The spectrum is wide. More than 60 percent of all betting focuses on so-called live play, where bets are placed on the probability of certain events happening during the game,” he explained.

Organised crime

The most common scenario is that only one person on the team is aware of the manipulation of events in the match. Nieminen said that criminals also use this kind of shady betting as a form of money laundering.

“In money laundering by game manipulation, a certain bet is usually broken up into a number of licensed gaming associations around the world. In this way the money won appears to be clean. Even large sums don’t generate surprise. It’s a form of organised crime with which it isn't difficult to make money,” Nieminen said.

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