Match-fixing trial: Deported Lebanese linesmen say 'no' to returning to testify

Eric Ding Si Yang (left) and his Lawyer Hamidul Haq arrive at the court on Aug 27, 2013. The match-fixing trial of Ding resumed on Tuesday with a twist - two key prosecution witnesses are now not showing up. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
Eric Ding Si Yang (left) and his Lawyer Hamidul Haq arrive at the court on Aug 27, 2013. The match-fixing trial of Ding resumed on Tuesday with a twist - two key prosecution witnesses are now not showing up. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

The match-fixing trial of businessman Eric Ding Si Yang, 31, resumed on Tuesday with two key prosecution witnesses, who were expected to testify, now not showing up.

Ding is accused of bribing three Lebanese Fifa officials with free sexual favours from prostitutes, in return for fixing a match.

Fifa linesmen Abdallah Taleb, 37, and Ali Eid, 33, had been deported on June 10 after serving jail terms of three months each. They were expected to return to Singapore to testify against Ding.

"Each of them say they have made clear and detailed statements in their involvement with Ding Si Yang, and have nothing to add to the statement which can assist the prosecution in the trial," said Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) officer Jeffrey Tan, who took the stand in an ancillary hearing to determine the admissibility of their statements.

According to court procedure, recorded statements cannot be admitted as evidence without the testimony of the witnesses, save for exceptional circumstances.

The third official, referee Ali Sabbagh, 34, had testified against Ding during the first leg of the trial last month. Sabbagh was released on Aug 3 for good behaviour after he was passed a six-month sentence starting from his arrest date of April 3. He was deemed more culpable than the linesmen because he had directly liaised with Ding. He has since returned home.

The trio, who are accredited by world football governing body Fifa, were in Singapore to officiate an Asian Football Confederation match between Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal on April 3.

If convicted, Ding faces up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $100,000, or both.

The trial has been adjourned and will continue on Wednesday with the cross-examination of Mr Tan by defence counsel Hamidul Haq.