We don’t normally follow snooker news (snooker is like billiards or pool but the balls have no numbers, just colors). And the U.K.’s News of the World isn’t one of our regular sources.
But earlier this month the paper posted a video of its undercover reporters apparently making a match-fixing deal with John Higgins, 34, the world’s best player. Also filmed was his agent, Pat Mooney, 63, one of the sport’s top four officials charged with policing the game. Here’s the full report.
There hasn’t been an FCPA case involving sports but there could be. Bribes to those working for “public international organizations” are covered by the statute, including members of sports sanctioning bodies such as the International Olympic Committee, or IOC. It has already been linked to a few scandals.
Bribery allegations tied to Salt Lake City’s bid for the winter games in the mid 1990s led to the resignation or dismissal of 10 IOC members. Atlanta’s Olympic bid was the subject of a 1996 report to Congress that revealed abuses — “many gifts worth more than $1,000, including offers of scholarships to IOC family members,” according to Time magazine. And in 2006, a report ordered by the Nagano, Japan governor said the Japanese city provided millions of dollars to IOC members in an “illegitimate and excessive level of hospitality,” including $4.4 million for entertainment alone.
Catching sports cheats isn’t easy. But the FBI has a sports bribery desk as part of its organized crime bureau. And this month the head of European soccer, Michel Platini, proposed a special pan-European police force devoted to sports-related crimes.
The News of the World team arranged the meeting with the snooker champ and his agent in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Higgins and Mooney said they believed they were dealing with the mafia. They agreed to the plot, they said, to save their skins and never intended to follow through. Higgins, meanwhile, has been banned from match play. His agent Mooney resigned from the board of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.
The video can be viewed here.