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Match-fixer Eric Ding found guilty

He will be sentenced on July 22 for bribing three Lebanese match officials to fix a match in Singapore.

SINGAPORE: Businessman Eric Ding Si Yang has been found guilty of three charges of bribing three Lebanese football officials with prostitutes, as an inducement to fix matches that they would officiate in future.

His lawyer, Mr Hamidul Haq, on Tuesday (July 1) told the court that his client would be appealing against the verdict. He will also submit his mitigation plea for Ding on July 22, when Ding is expected to be sentenced.

In a 34-page written judgment issued by the district court on Tuesday, District Judge Toh Yung Cheong said the prosecution had proven the “essential elements of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt”.

He also granted the prosecution’s application to increase Ding’s bail quantum from S$300,000 to S$400,000, after it argued that flight risk had clearly increased.

Ding, a former football tipster for The New Paper, was accused of bribing three Lebanese match officials to fix an Asian Football Confederation Cup match on April 3 last year between Singapore’s Tampines Rovers and India’s East Bengal.

He had arranged for the three men to receive sexual services from three social escorts hours before the match.

The officials — referee Ali Sabbagh, and linesmen Abdallah Taleb and Ali Eid — have served their jail terms here for accepting bribes and have been deported.

The defence had argued during the trial that the social escorts were neither told to provide nor not provide sexual services to the match officials.

Judge Toh, however, pointed out: “The fact that they were provided with condoms also suggests that sexual services was at the very least a possibility.”

The judge also noted that there was regular email exchange between Ding and Sabbagh. For instance, Ding had sent Sabbagh an email with YouTube video links that purportedly showed “certain refereeing decisions”. There were also emails that revealed that Ding had asked Sabbagh what matches he was officiating.

“The topic of match-fixing was not far from the accused’s (Ding) mind,” he said.

Although the defence had argued that the words “fix” or “fixing” was never used by Ding in his exchanges with Sabbagh, and they only talked about doing “business”, Judge Toh found that in light of the content of the email exchanges between them, “doing business” was a reference to match-fixing and the social escorts were provided as an inducement.

“It was open for the accused to give evidence to rebut this, but he chose to remain silent,” the judge said.

He also added that the defence’s argument that Ding was a journalist with an interest in match-fixing was “far-fetched”.

If Ding had been cultivating the three officials as sources — by providing social escorts — why did none of the three men tell the authorities about it, the judge asked.

For his conviction, Ding can be jailed up to five years and fined S$100,000 on each of his three charges.

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