Four statements given by two deported Lebanese linesmen will be admitted as court evidence in the corruption trial of alleged match-fixer Eric Ding despite the absence of their testimony.
District Judge Toh Yung Cheong delivered the ruling on Thursday after a three-day ancillary hearing, but gave the caveat that the decision is not final, and may be reversed after hearing full evidence. The judge noted that practicable attempts have been made by Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) officer Jeffrey Tan, through the making of phone calls and sending of emails, and when that came to nought, enlisting the help of Mr Imad Nasr, vice-consul of the Lebanese consulate here.
Addressing the linesmen's poor command of English, District Judge Toh said: "I was of the view that the lack of an interpreter did not make any difference. This is not the case where the investigating officer spoke to them and they refused to come because they did not understand what he was saying."
Even if the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act was invoked, such that diplomatic assistance is sought to get the witnesses to testify, they cannot be subject to any penalty and liability if they choose not to return, the judge said. "It appears that there are no other legal means to secure the return."
The judge added that given the precedence of this case, "it will be useful for all law enforcement agencies to agree on a common standard operating procedure to ensure consistency, in respect of securing the attendance of prosecution witnesses overseas."
Businessman Eric Ding Si Yang, 31, faces three counts of bribing three Fifa-accredited officials to induce them into fixing a future match. Referee Ali Sabbagh, 34, had testified against Ding last month while serving his six-month jail term. He has since been released for good behaviour and deported.