Is Money Laundering in Cricket ‘Super Over’?

Congratulations to England on winning the World Cup (…and therefore what seems like a good time to reflect on money laundering and corruption within the game)!

No one can argue that England’s win yesterday against New Zealand in the 2019 Cricket World Cup wasn’t one of the greatest sporting events of recent times. From the solid performance the Kiwi’s put in, to England’s fightback which resulted in a draw and ended with a “Super Over” that England won - cricket has certainly won a legion of new fans. However, it is worth remembering that the sport of cricket is not as clean as the player’s whites from times gone by (especially as teams now wear colourful kits!).

A report commissioned by the International Centre of Sport Security (ICSS) in 2014 claimed that 80 % of gambling related to sport was illegal, with cricket being one of the sports most exposed to the risk of illicit activity due to its extensive global interest and fan base. The ICSS estimated that bets between £164bn and £408bn were placed each year globally but only resulted in the total amount of associated tax revenues being about c.£3.3bn, due to the high-level of illegal gambling.

Asia and Europe are said to make up about 85% of the total gambling market although it is impossible to estimate with any accuracy the number of illegal gambling operations within these jurisdictions. What is clear though is that with the advent of global sports betting, enhanced by on-line gambling platforms, and an ever-increasing market, the gambling industry has been infiltrated by organised crime and money laundering.

Cricket has been hit with scandal over the years with issues relating to bribery and corruption being rife. Since 2000, 25 international cricket players have been banned for taking bribes in order to fix matches. Members of the Pakistan cricket team were convicted and sentenced to between six months and two years of taking bribes from a bookmaker in 2010 to underperform at a test match against England at Lords, so illicit gamblers could benefit from the so called “spot-fixing”.

The total amount of money laundered through the spot-fixing activity is not known, although cricketer Yasi Hameed was alleged to have taken £100,000 to help fix a test match, and allegedly told a newspaper that "almost every [cricket] match was fixed”.

A FATF report published in 2009 drew attention to the risk facing the sports industry of being used by criminals to launder money. The purpose of the report was to help government policy makers and law enforcers within the financial sector to better understand the issues surrounding money laundering in sport so they could help curtail the problem. Since the report was commissioned, and since the cricket match fixing scandals were uncovered, methods taken to tackle corruption within cricket have had a positive impact.

A report commissioned by the EU in January 2019, Mapping of Corruption in Sport in the EU, detailed sophisticated methods that criminals use to launder money through cash-rich sports such as cricket. The report also provided details of the potential damage that corruption cases can cause to a sport’s reputation for integrity and fair play.

Tax evasion is another illicit activity which is associated to cricket. The EU estimates that c.£14.5bn of revenue is lost a year due to tax evasion in cash-rich sports such as cricket. The figures related to tax evasion and money laundering practices within sport is difficult to estimate due to the use of off-shore financing, 3rd party arrangements as well as the high-level and amount of money involved in cross-border transfers.

Money laundering and other illicit activity in sports such as cricket has seen a decline in recent years but as the sport is likely to get bigger following the world cup, the associated risks of cricket being used my criminal gangs will only increase.