Singapore - A Singaporean businessman was found guilty of corruption Tuesday after a judge ruled that he offered three Lebanese referees free services of prostitutes in return for rigging future matches.
Nightclub owner Eric Ding Si Yang, 32, could face up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to Sg$300 000 for bribing referee Ali Sabbagh, 35 and assistant referees Ali Eid, 34, and Abdallah Taleb, 38.
Sentencing has been scheduled for July 22.
District Judge Toh Yung Cheong said in a written judgement the prosecution had proven beyond reasonable doubt that Ding offered the Lebanese trio free sexual services to “induce the three of them to agree to getting involved in match-fixing”.
“The ultimate objective was to get the match officials to make decisions on the pitch that were incorrect in order to benefit the match-fixers,” Toh said.
The three Lebanese were arrested in the early hours of April 3 last year for accepting sexual favours in exchange for agreeing to fix an unspecified football match.
They had been scheduled to officiate at an Asian Football Confederation Cup match between Singapore-based club Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal but were pulled out after their detention.
All three subsequently pleaded guilty. Sabbagh was jailed for six months while Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb served three-month sentences.
In his judgement, the judge dismissed as “far-fetched” Ding's argument that he was not a match-fixer but a journalist with a local tabloid who had an “interest in writing about match-fixing”.
“In fact, his claim that he was a freelance journalist could provide ideal cover for his illegal activities and also grant him access to match officials,” the judge said.
Ali Sabbagh, who became a prosecution witness while serving his sentence, testified during the nearly year-long trial that Ding had showed him YouTube videos to teach him how to fix games as a match official.
He had quoted Ding as saying that “nobody will stop you, nobody will do anything... when the corner comes, just blow and say pushing and pulling... if there is anything in the penalty area, you can blow your whistle”.
Ding, who had refused to testify during the trial, is currently out on bail.
The case is a colourful addition to Singapore's long history of match-fixing scandals.
In September last year Singapore police nabbed 14 people believed to be members of a global match-fixing syndicate including the suspected mastermind Dan Tan.
Singaporean arch-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, an associate of Dan Tan, is currently in the spotlight for accurately predicting the outcomes of a FIFA World Cup tie between Cameroon and Croatia, including the exact score and the dismissal of a player in the first-half.