SINGAPORE - Mali-born Gaye Alassane, who was stripped of his Singapore citizenship, has been linked to an international match-fixing syndicate for some years now.
The 43-year-old appeared on the radar screen around 2009, when he was allegedly caught offering bribes to footballers from Deportivo Arabe Unido, a club from Panama, to lose a Concacaf Champions League match that was to be played in Panama City that year.
Then sporting dreadlocks and donning a jacket that said "Mali" on its back, Alassane was secretly photographed in a hotel room in El Salvador offering €100,000 (about S$159,000) to the players to lose the match. He had an unidentified accomplice with him.
Alassane, who played for Gombak United in the S. League in 2000, said he was a Singaporean, investigators from Latin America and world football governing body Fifa revealed to this reporter.
The investigation dossier - containing e-mails, photographs, wire-transfer account numbers and interview transcripts - later seen by The Straits Times revealed that Alassane was actually being investigated for attempting to fix two Concacaf Champions League matches.
El Salvadoran newspaper El Grafico had reported in 2011 that Alassane again allegedly offered bribes to players from Deportivo Arabe Unido when the team was in Salt Lake City in the United States in 2010.
When ST confronted Alassane with the allegations following the media report, he denied any wrongdoing to this reporter, claiming he was a businessman and was in both cities "on holiday".
He said then: "I was there (El Salvador) in 2009 for a holiday... (and) I was in Salt Lake City to meet my friend. I watched a football match but I never talked to any football player."
Now with his Singapore citizenship stripped, he told ST in a report on Thursday (Dec 7) that "he did those things, but everybody make mistakes, no?" He was referring to his involvement in match fixing.
The last few years have been tough for him.
In September 2013, Alassane was among 14 syndicate members detained by the authorities in Singapore for international match fixing activities spanning Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.
He spent two years and three months in detention under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act.
Meanwhile, investigators here, which included officers from the Criminal Investigation Department, pieced together the extent of Alassane's involvement as a representative of Exclusive Sports, a business entity previously named Football Four U International.
The company was owned by convicted match fixer and fugitive from Singapore, Wilson Raj Perumal. He remains in Hungary where he was a prosecution witness in a match-fixing trial in the country.
Alleged mastermind and financier Dan Tan Seet Eng, who is still held in detention without trial in Singapore, was one of the directors of the company.
Alassane himself was a director of football academy Football 4 U at Lower Delta.
It was not just club football he allegedly tried to fix.
An investigation was launched following El Salvador's 5-0 loss to Mexico in the 2011 Gold Cup and the trail led investigators in El Salvador once again to Alassane.
He had allegedly wired money on Jan 4, 2011, to six Salvadorean footballers as a "Christmas Bonus".
As a representative of Exclusive Sports, which was later exposed by the Finnish authorities as a Singapore company linked to match fixing, Alassane had allegedly met with football officials and players prior to the match.
ST understands that investigators were aware of alleged Skype conversations between Alassane and a Salvadorean footballer said to have been bribed to throw the match.
Mr Terry Steans closely followed the trail left by match fixers from Singapore when he was Fifa's global investigator. He described Alassane as a "peripheral figure in match fixing investigations".
Speaking to ST on Thursday, he said: "In stripping Gaye's citizenship, Singapore has shown it will not tolerate those who stain its reputation."
Integrity and security consultant, Mr Michael Pride from Perform Group, said stripping a person's citizenship "will send a strong message" to others involved in match fixing that they are not untouchable.
Mr Pride was responsible for breaking up Wilson Raj's syndicate in the UK Conference League which resulted in the arrest of Singaporean Chann Sankaran in the UK.
Mr Steans, who was later involved in what is known as the SAFA (South African Football Association) probe, said Alassane was "active" during the 2010 pre-World Cup international friendlies in South Africa.
In that probe, a South African refereeing official received a death threat after foiling an attempt by a Singapore match fixing syndicate to rig a match between South Africa and Denmark.
The report, seen by ST, named Wilson Raj and a few of his associates as the people who approached SAFA officials to suggest a referee-exchange programme. They were willing to bear the cost of providing match officials for friendly matches.
Despite Alassane initially denying knowing Wilson Raj, photos supplied by Wilson Raj to this reporter suggested otherwise.
Alassane was part of an amateur league football club in Singapore called Oxley City.
Among those who played for the team was Admir Suljic, a suspected match fixer named in an Italian match fixing probe, and also Dan Tan.