Singaporean guilty of bribing football officials

Businessman provided prostitutes to three Lebanese referees to get them to fix games

Eric Ding Si Yang has alleged ties to an international match-fixing ring. Yesterday's verdict comes after a protracted trial.
Eric Ding Si Yang has alleged ties to an international match-fixing ring. Yesterday's verdict comes after a protracted trial. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

A Singaporean businessman with alleged ties to an international match-fixing ring was yesterday found guilty of providing three Lebanese football officials with prostitutes as bribes for fixing future matches.

In convicting Eric Ding Si Yang, 32, of three counts of corruption, each carrying a maximum of five years' jail and a $100,000 fine, the judge also found him to be involved in match-fixing.

The verdict follows a protracted trial in which defence lawyers argued that Ding was not a match-fixer, but an entrepreneur running a company involved in organising international friendly football matches.

They argued he was also a freelance journalist cultivating a source for a book about match-fixing, a theory which the judge found "far-fetched".

District Judge Toh Yung Cheong said there was an "irresistible inference" that the provision of social escorts to the three officials was linked to Ding's involvement in match-fixing.

"(Ding) provided the social escorts, who then provided free sexual services for the purpose of inducing the three match officials to agree to do 'business' with him, the term being a euphemism for getting involved in match-fixing," wrote the judge in his grounds of decision.

The officials, namely referee Ali Sabbagh, 35, and linesmen Abdallah Taleb, 38, and Ali Eid, 34, were deported after serving time here for accepting bribes made in April last year, when they were here to officiate an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) match.

The judge said: "The transaction appears to be one where the accused wanted to secure 'in principle' agreement from the three of them, before he divulged details of how the match-fixing would work and before identifying games to be fixed."

He was not swayed by the defence's argument that Ding "never once discussed football match-fixing" with the officials because he had never used the words "fix" nor "fixing". Rather, the judge found that Ding employed euphemisms like "business" and "job".

The judge also cited e-mails from Ding to Mr Sabbagh referring to YouTube videos of bad refereeing decisions, and telling him to "do a good job".

He also told the referee the "business" pays more in one year than what AFC referees can earn in 10 years.

The judge also dismissed the assertion that there was no evidence that Ding had anything to do with the escorts. The court has heard that to secure the prostitutes, Ding first called Dan Tan, who then phoned a contact to set it up.

Tan has been named by Interpol as "the leader of the world's most notorious match-fixing syndicate", and is now under detention.

Ding's bail was raised from $300,000 to $400,000 after his conviction, with Deputy Chief Prosecutor Tan Ken Hwee arguing that Ding presented an increased flight risk, and citing incidents of other alleged match-fixers who absconded before their matters were fully dealt with by the courts.

Defence lawyer Hamidul Haq told the court yesterday that Ding intends to appeal against the guilty verdict.

Sentencing has been set for July 22.

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