Champion Jockey Fallon, Others Charged With Conspiracy; Q/A With HRA Official
Updated: Tuesday, July 4, 2006 6:57 AM
Posted: Monday, July 3, 2006 9:06 AM
Kieren Fallon, the six-time champion jockey of Britain, was charged at Bishopsgate police station in London, England, on Monday, with conspiracy to defraud customers of the online betting exchange Betfair.
The 41-year-old rider, who won the group I Irish Derby aboard Dylan Thomas at the Curragh, Ireland, on Sunday, was one of 28 people answering bail on July 3 in connection with a long-running investigation into alleged corruption in horseracing.
The City of London police investigation, codenamed Operation Crypton, started in March, 2004 and has looked into 93 races run between December 1, 2002 and September 2, 2004.
Fallon arrived at Bishopsgate at 9:15 a.m., and left some 20 minutes later in a silver Mercedes without making comment.
During the day, 10 others were charged including jockeys Darren Williams and Fergal Lynch, both of North Yorkshire, trainer Alan Berry and farrier Steve O'Sullivan, also with conspiracy to defraud.
Miles Rodgers, a former racing syndicate director from South Yorkshire, was charged with conspiracy to defraud Betfair customers and an offense relating to allegations of money laundering. Joanne Richardson, 27, faces one charge under the Proceeds of Crime Act as do Darren Armitage and Brian Pilkington, both from Barnsley.
Philip Sherkle, of Tamworth, and Lynch's brother Shaun, are also charged with conspiracy to defraud customers of Betfair.
All of those charged Monday are due to appear in court on July 17.
Among those released Monday without any charge were trainer Karl Burke plus jockeys Robert Winston, Paul Bradley and Dale Jewett.
The on-line betting company Betfair, after noticing certain betting patterns, made its records available to the Jockey Club who involved the City of London police, which has Britain's most experienced fraud investigation team.
During the investigation, 34 arrests were made, more than 500 interviews undertaken, at least 1,300 statements obtained, and almost 40,000 pages of evidence passed to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Detective Superintendent Tony Crampton, who led the long inquiry, said the conspiracy to defraud charges had been brought against individuals including Fallon over allegations that they had agreed not to run horses "on their merit".
He also revealed that Berry and O'Sullivan had been charged with conspiracy to defraud in relation to the horse Hillside Girl, which they are accused of dishonestly entering into a race before subsequently laying against it winning -- in other words, betting that it would lose the race.
Fallon, who holds an Irish license, is prevented from riding in Britain as a result of being charged, but will continue in Ireland where he is retained by owners John & Sue Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith who have most of their horses with champion trainer Aidan O'Brien at Ballydoyle.
Denis Egan, chief executive of the Irish Turf Club, said: "Basically the situation in Ireland is that he will be able to continue to ride. The licensing committee will obviously note what has happened but as far as we are concerned Kieren Fallon is innocent until proven guilty."
The Horseracing Regulatory Authority (formerly the British Jockey Club) has made provision on Tuesday (Alan Berry) and Friday (Kieren Fallon, Darren Williams and Fergal Lynch) for a special panel to hear representations from those affected. They cannot send out runners or ride in Britain in the meantime.
Paul Scotney is the director of security at the HRA which released a video interview with him. Q: Much has been made of the City of London police inquiry into race fixing within the British horserace industry. Does this mean that racing is corrupt?
Scotney: First of all, I hope you understand that I can't really comment about the police investigation. That is ongoing, and that's something I really can't talk about the specifics. But in general terms, is racing corrupt? The answer is no. On a daily basis, the majority of races are run without any problem.
However, racing is inextricably linked with betting, which means there's money involved, and where there's money involved there are going to be one or two individuals trying to get an advantage over others. That's what has happened in racing. And it's happened throughout racing, over the 250 years that racing has been in existence.
The difference now, is that we have a number of structures and processes and expert people that we've brought in over the last few years that means that if people do try to cheat, there's a very good chance that they'll get caught. Q: So what is being done to combat corruption and raise the deterrent?
A: Importantly, three years ago, the wider racing industry realized that there was a problem that needed to be tackled. A fundamental review was carried out of how corruption in racing was dealt with. It was found not to be in a professional way. There were 36 recommendations made that would help us improve the way that was done, and the industry put the money up to make those changes.
So what the industry has demonstrated is that it wants to tackle corruption. It wants to help us do it. So my job over the last three years has been to implement those 36 recommendations. Q: So what have you actually done to modernize security?
A: There are a number of things we've done. First of all, we've brought in a number of experts. We've got some ex-senior police officers, who have detective experience, who are used to dealing with corruption and investigating corruption.
We've got some intelligence experts that we've brought in, and we've got some analytical experts, and we've also got some betting experts. So we've got a number of people that have skills that help us investigate in a professional way.
We've also changed our systems and processes. We've got a very good computerized system that manages our intelligence, that helps us on a daily basis, makes sure that we're doing things as professionally, almost, as a police service. So to encapsulate that, we've got a much more professional outfit than we had three years ago. Q: What new measures have been put in place to prevent corruption?
A: There have been a number, but one really important one has been the way that we restrict the use of mobile phones by licensed individuals, and particularly jockeys and valets, on racing day. What we now have is a restriction that they can't use their phone during racing time and that to us has been a fundamental change.
Another important change has been restricting how people can bet, and particularly licensed individuals. Owners, trainers, cannot now lay their own horse to lose, which I think has been an important development. Of course, jockeys cannot bet at all. So there are a number of measures there that we see have made a difference over the last two years that restrict the activity, and particularly the use of inside information. Q: Critics blame the use of betting exchanges, where a punter can back, not only a horse to win, but also lay a bet for a horse to lose a race, for the rise in corruption. How is the HRA dealing with exchanges?
A: Let's first of all be clear about this. There has been cheating in racing for 250 years, long before exchanges came along. Exchanges are now here. They offer a new way of people betting. A lot of people use them on a daily basis, and have enjoyment from that.
It's not an option for us to ignore them, so what we do is we collaborate with them, and they offer us an opportunity that we didn't have before, which is access to the details of cheats. So on a daily basis now, we're able to collaborate with the betting exchanges to try to identify people that are cheating. Q: And how are you doing that?
A: The way we do that is I have two betting experts that on a daily basis monitor racing. If we see something that's not right, or the betting exchanges see something that's not right, then we will talk.
What I would want to add is that the wider betting industry has now bought into this, and we talk to the wider betting industry on a daily basis as well. So the fundamental thing is that we now have access to records of the cheats, which gives us a clear audit trail, which then helps us prove who the corrupters and corrupted are. Q: So what are you doing to safeguard the interests of the public betting on racing day-to-day?
A: As I said, on a daily basis, in our intelligence unit we are monitoring racing and we're monitoring the betting market. If we see something that's suspicious, we'll talk to the betting industry. They will talk to us. If it's prior to a race, we may then take the course of action of contacting the stewards, to give the stewards advance warning that there may be something that's not quite right.
We've seen suspicious betting patterns. We tell the stewards on the race day so that they can watch closer. We then leave it to them to decide what course of action to take. But it does mean that prior to a race, we may be able to inform the stewards that there may be a problem. I would add that this is a rare occasion, but it does happen. Q: When investigations do get undertaken, the common complaint is they take far too long. What are you doing to speed things up?
A: They do take too long, and it's something that's a frustration for me, that they take far too long. But if we've got someone that's not cooperating with the investigation, then we have to take other courses of action that take time, i.e. if we want access to telephone records, which are a fundamental part of our investigations, we may have to go to the High Court, which we've done successfully on about five occasions. But that's time consuming. It takes a long while to go through that process, and then once you get the data, you've got to analyze it. That all takes time.
I am committed to the fact of, over the next 12 months, that one of the things we've got to do is to cut down the time it takes on investigation, because I'm very uncomfortable about the fact that people are under suspicion during that period of time and it isn't helpful to their career, and I don't like that. But I can assure you that if there are ways that we can cut the time down on how long they take, we will definitely be doing that. Q: The HRA has had some high profile results in the last 12 months, including the Gary Carter case, and the Sean Keightley inquiry. Do you think these cases are a turning point for the prosecution and the prevention of race-fixing?
A: I think the important point about these two cases is that they send a clear message to individuals that if they cheat in racing there's a very good chance they're going to get caught.
Specifically, what these cases were, they were our first opportunity to use our new powers, in particular access to betting records, access to telephone records, which we were then able to show to the disciplinary panel how the cheating took place. So they saw the whole picture. So in essence, what this did is that it showed that if you cheat, you're likely to get banished from the sport. Q: So what more is there to be done?
A: I think what we've demonstrated over the last three years, that if you cheat there's a much greater chance of you getting caught than there ever has been before. But there are clearly things we can do. Maybe we need to look at the culture of racing. Maybe some things are seen as acceptable that no longer are acceptable, and particularly around the use of inside information.
We have an industry-wide group looking at that at the moment, and what will come out of that, hopefully, are some clearer rules around what people can do with inside information.
We probably also need to do more around the education side of it, speaking to young jockeys, speaking to trainers when they're coming into the industry, as to what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, and also warn them of how they may be approached by corrupters. So there are a number of areas there I think we can improve around the education side of it.
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