Lebanese referee, 2 linesmen jailed for match fixing

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SINGAPORE (AP) Lebanese referee Ali Sabbagh has been sentenced to six months in jail by a Singapore court after pleading guilty to influencing two linesmen to help fix an Asian Football Confederation match.
The sentencing Tuesday comes two months after the trio was charged with “corruptly receiving gratification in the form of free sexual service,” arranged by Singaporean businessman Eric Ding Si Yang, in an attempted to fix the April 3 match in Singapore.
Linesmen Ali Eid, 33, and Abdallah Taleb, 37, were sentenced Monday to three months in jail but were released within hours after the court took into account time already served while waiting for their sentences. Eid and Taleb were expected to leave Singapore later Tuesday.
All three were apprehended before the April 3 match by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and were detained at Singapore s Changi prison.
In delivering his sentence Tuesday, Judge Low Wee Ping told Sabbagh: “You were not only cultivated by Ding, you also in turn went on to cultivate, or included, the co-accused linesmen as potential corrupt international football officials.”
Sabbagh s sentence was delayed a day as the court needed time to consider a harsher punishment due to his direct contact with Ding, whom he met in Beirut a year ago. The state prosecutor also said Sabbagh was the “most culpable” out of the three football match officials.
“You are a FIFA-accredited international referee with the potential to influence legally or corruptly many international matches,” Judge Lowe said in his sentencing remarks. “If you had not been detected or arrested and now convicted, one wonders how many football matches you could have gone on to fix.”
Gary Low, lawyer for the trio, had argued that Sabbagh did not make any financial gain and added that the Lebanese referee was willing to be a “star witness” in cooperating with authorities to assist in investigations into illegal gambling.
Ding, who was charged with three counts of corruption in May, is on bail of 150,000 Singapore dollars ($119,000). He has pleaded not guilty.
Despite its immense wealth, Singapore has been hit by football corruption fueled by illicit gambling syndicates.
Last May, Singapore authorities charged a top referee and a former Malaysia international with conspiring to fix a Malaysia Super League match.
In another closely watched case Singapore national Wilson Raj Perumal, who had ties to Asian and Eastern European gambling syndicates, was jailed in Finland for match-fixing.
Another Singapore businessman, Dan Tan Seet Eng, has been accused of coordinating a global crime syndicate that made millions of dollars betting on rigged Italian matches and hundreds of other matches. Dan Tan has reportedly been interviewed by Singapore authorities but no charges have been laid.177922_44106758

2013-06-11

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