Singapore match-fixer jailed for 3 years in sex-bribe case
A Singaporean businessman was jailed for three years on Thursday for providing prostitutes to three Lebanese football referees in a match-fixing attempt that has put the spotlight on the city-state's role in global sports corruption.
Nightclub owner Eric Ding Si Yang, 32, was refused bail while he appeals the ruling, and state prosecutors said they would file a motion before a higher court to demand a harsher punishment.
Ding was found guilty on July 1 of corruption for bribing referee Ali Sabbagh, 35 and assistant referees Ali Eid, 34, and Abdallah Taleb, 38, before a match last year in Singapore.
District Judge Toh Yung Cheong said as he handed down the jail sentence that Singapore's reputation had been tarnished by match-fixing.
"Match-fixing offences bring not only the sport into disrepute, but also affect Singapore's reputation and image as a country internationally recognised for having low levels of corruption," Toh said in his written judgement.
This could affect the city-state's "drive to be a prime venue for prestigious international sporting events," he said.
Toh earlier ruled that the prosecution had proven beyond reasonable doubt that Ding offered the Lebanese match officials the sexual services of prostitutes to "induce the three of them to agree to getting involved in match-fixing".
The three officials were arrested in April 2013 before they could officiate at an Asian Football Confederation Cup match between Singapore-based club Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal.
All three subsequently pleaded guilty to corruption charges. Sabbagh was jailed for six months while Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb served three-month sentences.
- Major global syndicate -
The case is the latest in Singapore's long history of match-fixing scandals.
In September last year, Singapore police detained 14 people believed to be members of a global match-fixing syndicate including the suspected mastermind Dan Tan. That investigation is still ongoing.
Prosecutors in the Ding case cited reports by the international media about a major global syndicate operating out of Singapore fixing football matches around the world.
They also referred to a report by European police agency Europol in February last year identifying Singapore as the base of a trans-national syndicate fixing matches with bribes of up to 100,000 euros ($135,000) per match.
When he convicted Ding on July 1, the judge dismissed as "far-fetched" the businessman's argument that he was not a match-fixer but a freelance journalist with a local tabloid who had an "interest in writing about match-fixing".
State prosecutors had asked the court to hand down a sentence of up to six years in jail and a maximum Sg$300,000 ($242,000) fine as a signal to the world of Singapore's seriousness in eradicating match-fixing.
But the judge said that while Ding may be part of an organised group rigging matches, there was insufficient evidence to prove that he was a member of a "large international criminal syndicate that operates on the scale described by the media reports".
Defence lawyers said they would appeal the three-year sentence as well as the court's refusal to grant bail.
"This court can show the international community our collective disdain for match-fixing with a severe sentence that would make a powerful and unambiguous statement that match-fixing and corruption in sport has no place in Singapore," state prosecutors said in their written submission.
But defence counsel Thong Chee Kun said "it cannot be right to make Mr Ding pay for the actions of every match-fixer in Singapore".
Defence lawyers had argued for a light sentence, saying that no football match was actually fixed and that "the integrity of the Beautiful Game has not been compromised".