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Match-fixer Eric Ding gets 3 years’ jail, plans to appeal

The businessman was found guilty on July 1 of three charges of bribing three Lebanese football officials with prostitutes, as an inducement to fix matches that they would officiate in future.

SINGAPORE: Businessman Eric Ding was sentenced to three years’ jail on Thursday (July 24), after being found guilty earlier this month of bribery. He began serving his sentence immediately after his request for bail to be extended was denied by the court.

The 32-year-old was convicted on July 1 of three charges of bribing three Lebanese football officials with prostitutes, as an inducement to fix matches that they would officiate in future.

Noting that his decision to bribe the Lebanese officials as an inducement to fix matches they would officiate in future was premeditated, District Judge Toh Yung Cheong said Ding was no doubt "swayed" by the potential profits and difficulty in detecting such offences.

According to the judge, this is because the advent of online betting has made match-fixing more lucrative and potentially allows offenders to hide behind the anonymity of the internet.

The Attorney-General's Chambers said it intends to file a notice of appeal against Ding's sentence as the prosecution had earlier submitted that Ding should be jailed between four and six years, and fined. Ding's lawyer also said his client would be appealing the conviction and sentence.

In his sentencing remarks, the judge accepted that Ding was part of an ‘organised group’ to carry out match-fixing activities but noted there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt he was indeed part of a large international criminal syndicate.

"The absence of such evidence was one of the reasons why my sentence is below the sentencing range suggested by the prosecution. If there was indeed evidence that the accused played a major role in a large criminal organisation, I may well have accepted the sentencing range suggested by the prosecution," he added.

Still, the judge noted this did not mean the court was restricted to concluding that Ding was a small-time operator who was acting alone and that his activities were small scale and would cause little harm. On the contrary; Ding was seeking to corrupt FIFA referees who were responsible for officiating international matches, and had made references to a company in his email correspondence with one of the referees, as well as used the term "we" rather than "I" - suggesting that he was not acting alone. He also did not impose a fine because no match was actually fixed, and there was no evidence Ding benefited financially from his offences.

Ding was also denied bail pending his appeal. Deputy Public Prosecutor Alan Loh cited the case of match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, who fled the country after being convicted of unrelated charges. "There's no special reason why Ding should be allowed to go on bail," Mr Loh said.

The prosecution had argued that there was a risk Ding would abscond. Mr Loh said that Ding's roots are not fully embedded in Singapore, as his wife and daughter are living in Thailand, while noting that he is a man of substantial means with the necessary resources and network to abscond.

It also added that Ding presents an increased risk of absconding after conviction and after lengthy sentence had been passed. The judge agreed that more weight must be given to ensure Ding does not abscond especially when this could threaten Singapore's international reputation and standing.

The judge also noted that the prosecution has confirmed that it is willing to accept an early date for the appeal. Ding later told reporters through his lawyer Hamidul Haq that he looks forward to clearing his name in the High Court. 

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