Singapore - A Singaporean businessman accused by Interpol of running a global football match-fixing ring was ordered freed by the city-state's highest court on Wednesday after more than two years of detention without trial.
Dan Tan, who was arrested in September 2013 and held under a special law designed to fight gangsters, was set free after the Court of Appeal ruled that he posed no danger to public safety and order.
The Attorney-General's Chambers, which handles prosecutions of criminal cases, told AFP it "will study carefully the Court of Appeal's written grounds of decision before determining any course of action".
Singapore authorities had invoked the anti-gangster law to arrest Tan due to the difficulty of finding evidence and witnesses against him. Such detentions are subject to annual review by the minister of home affairs.
The Straits Times newspaper quoted Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon as saying that there was nothing to suggest that Tan's alleged overseas match-fixing activities jeopardised public safety, peace and good order in Singapore.
The three-judge appeals court is the highest judicial power in Singapore. Wednesday's decision appeared to have caught the legal and sporting community in the gambling-mad island nation by surprise.
The 51-year-old Tan, also known as Tan Seet Eng, had filed a legal challenge against his detention nearly one year after his arrest.
After the arrest, then Interpol chief Ronald Noble said the Singapore-based ring allegedly run by Tan was the world's "largest and most aggressive match-fixing syndicate, with tentacles reaching every continent".
Police say global match-fixing generates billions of dollars a year in revenues, fuelled in part by the popularity of online betting on match results and more minute game statistics.
Tan is wanted in Italy and Hungary for allegedly fixing dozens of games in the two countries and elsewhere in Europe.
He was among 14 people arrested in September 2013 in Singapore's biggest crackdown on match-fixing.
Singapore has a long history of such scandals, a stain on its reputation for having one of the world's least corrupt governments and business sectors.
In a book about Singapore's deep links with global match-fixing, local investigative journalist Zaihan Mohamed Yusof said authorities swooped on Tan's gang after uncovering plans to rig qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Experts have said that easy international transport, a passport accepted around the world and fluency in English and Mandarin have helped Singaporean fixers spread their influence abroad with the support of external investors, most believed to be from China.
Tan first came to prominence when fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, also a Singaporean, was arrested and jailed in Finland in 2011 for fixing top-tier games there.
Perumal, who has served his prison sentence and is now assisting match-fixing investigators in Hungary, had told prosecutors he was a double-crossed associate of Tan.