CHIANGRAI TIMES – A Singapore court sentenced two Lebanese football referees on Monday to jail time already served, with a third to be sentenced Tuesday, after all three pleaded guilty to accepting sex bribes from a global crime syndicate believed to have been responsible for fixing hundreds of soccer matches around the world.
The sentencing comes more than a year after the trio accepted sex bribes from prostitutes arranged by Singaporean businessman Eric Ding Si Yang, 31, in exchange for fixing the April 3rd Asian Football Confederation Cup match.
Assistant referees Ali Eid, 33, Abdallah Taleb, 37, and referee Ali Sabbagh, 34, were abruptly pulled off the field and have been detained in Singapore’s Changi Prison ever since. All three were denied bail.
In sentencing Eid and Taleb, Judge Low Wee Ping said: “The fact that you are international officials in my view, is already an aggravating factor.” But Low acknowledged the “strong mitigating factor” that both men had pleaded guilty and said they could be released later Monday or Tuesday due to good behaviour and time served while awaiting their sentence.
The state prosecutor said Sabbagh was the “most culpable” because he had direct contact with match-fixer Eric Ding, whom he met in Beirut. Low added he needed time to consider Sabbagh’s sentence.
Ding was charged with corruption in May and was granted bail of 150,000 Singapore dollars ($119,000 US).
State prosecutors also indicated “a clear international dimension” to the offences committed by the trio.
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 Malaysian 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.
Serial match-fixer Dan Tan Seet Eng, accused of heading a crime syndicate that made millions of dollars betting on rigged Italian matches has been reportedly assisting the authorities in ongoing investigations.