Businessman Rajendar Prasad Rai acquitted of match-fixing charges

Rajendar Prasad Rai leaving the State Court on Oct 5, 2015 after posting bail of $300,000.
Rajendar Prasad Rai leaving the State Court on Oct 5, 2015 after posting bail of $300,000. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A District Judge acquitted businessman Rajendar Prasad Rai of six-charges of match-fixing abroad, finding there were reasonable doubts in the statements of central witness Shree Manish Kalra that would make any conviction unsafe.

Prosecutors in the case had alleged that Rajendar, 43, and his nephew Shree Manish Kalra, then 22, conspired to fix the results of six matches played in three different locations in Europe in 2013 and 2014.

The trial had centred on Manish's evidence and there was no independent evidence that the six matches were indeed fixed, said District Judge Crystal Ong in oral grounds on Thursday (Jul 14).

The judge noted the "prosecution has painted a picture of the accused as a match fixer" and to convince the court, relied on various statements he had made and pointed to various pieces of objective evidence that supported what he said.

"While there is some objective evidence which corroborates what he said in the statements, there is also objective evidence which contradicts what he said," added Judge Ong.

In these friendly matches between clubs staged abroad, Rajendar and Manish were said to have fixed the results through picking specific match officials for the games.

Both would place bets depending on what the fix was for and they would either pay the match officials to influence the results or the match agents.

District Judge Ong noted there were no probes conducted into any of these six matches by Fifa,Uefa or any other government authority, and neither was any action taken against parties concerned nor were they called as witnesses.

The trial instead focused on Manish who made statements to the CPIB in 2015 when he implicated Rajendar and himself but retracted the statements in court and claimed he lied to "fix" Rajendar.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Navin Naidu and Stacey Fernandez had then treated Manish as a hostile witness, cross-examined him and urged the court to reject his trial evidence and accept what he said in the statements.

Senior Counsel N Sreenivasan and lawyer Jason Lim for the defence called for the court to drop the CPIB statements by Manish, arguing they were untrue and was meant to frame Rajendar, among other things.

The judge observed that Manish was "very clever, very eloquent, extremely street-smart and extremely good at thinking on his feet" on the stand.

She noted that Manish was the one driving the contents of the statements he made to CPIB, adding that the Bureau did not have any information in relation to other matches other than one involving a Latvian football team.

Judge Ong said she was "puzzled" that Manish was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal two months after he sought to retract his statements in October 2015, before the trial started.

She compared the various pieces of objective evidence which prosecutors produced to support his statements as dots, which "however were not many and hence the distance between each dot is rather substantial".

"It is not as if there was a preponderance of objective evidence such that there is left no reasonable doubt as to how these dots all joined up and pointed to the accused being guilty of match-fixing, as Manish had claimed in the statements," said District Judge Ong.