Investigation into crypto gambling Linked to Xhaka’s booking reaches dead end

Cryptocurrency operator in Curacao incurred £400,000 losses from bets

A lengthy investigation into suspicious gambling activities tied to Granit Xhaka's contentious booking during Arsenal's victory over Leeds 18 months ago has hit an impasse.

Anti-corruption officials delving into the matter have been hindered by the predominance of bets placed within unregulated cryptocurrency markets.

The inquiry unveiled that a cryptocurrency operator based in the Caribbean's Curacao incurred losses of £400,000 through wagers made on Xhaka's booking in a Premier League match in December 2021.

Nonetheless, the International Betting Integrity Association was unable to pursue the case, citing the operator's non-membership status.

Following a six-month probe by the Football Association (FA), the investigation was escalated to a criminal level. However, earlier this summer, the criminal inquiry was terminated without any charges being brought forth. It is important to note that Granit Xhaka himself was never implicated in any wrongdoing.

The case initially gained traction in January this year when it was reported that approximately £400,000 in suspicious Bitcoin bets had been placed on an Arsenal player receiving a yellow card within the final 10 minutes of a match. The operator responsible for these wagers alerted the International Betting Integrity Association about the irregular bets.

Specifically, the incident under scrutiny involved midfielder Granit Xhaka's yellow card in the 85th minute against Leeds. The booking was seen as unnecessary time-wasting during a free kick, raising suspicions due to Arsenal's comfortable 4-1 lead at that point.

The investigation not only extended to Betfair betting markets, where unexpected wagers caused a sudden shift in odds but also encompassed a series of substantial bets made in Bitcoin.

According to obtained emails, the unnamed bookmaker received multiple Bitcoin bets that could have yielded over $1m in profits if not for blocking the market, suggesting potential manipulation.

While the FA is said to have explored the situation, no formal inquiry was initiated then. Even back then sources from the FA indicated that there was no evidence implicating Xhaka or any other Arsenal players in any misconduct, who were later cleared officially.

Spot-fixing, a form of wagering on specific elements of a game rather than the final outcome, is at the heart of this investigation.

Although relatively rare in professional soccer due to substantial player salaries, concerns regarding potential corruption have fueled the examination. However, investigations into the specific cryptocurrency-related gambling activity surrounding Xhaka's booking have reached an inconclusive end.

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Written by Silvia Pavlof

Silvia has explored various forms of writing, ranging from content creation for social media to crafting movie scripts. Drawing on her experience as a journalist specializing in the gambling sector, she is currently investigating the impact of cryptocurrencies and blockchain on traditional gambling and iGaming.