SINGAPORE: A Singaporean businessman was sentenced to three years in prison on Thursday for providing prostitutes to three Lebanese football referees in an attempt to rig future matches.
Nightclub owner Eric Ding Si Yang, 32, was jailed on corruption charges following revelations that Singapore has become a centre of gambling-linked match-fixing for games as far away as Europe.
He was found guilty on July 1 of bribing referee Ali Sabbagh, 35 and assistant referees Ali Eid, 34, and Abdallah Taleb, 38, before a match last year in Singapore.
District Judge Toh Yung Cheong said as he handed down the jail sentence that Singapore's reputation had been tarnished by the match-fixing.
He earlier ruled that the prosecution had proven beyond reasonable doubt that Ding offered the Lebanese match officials sexual services to "induce the three of them to agree to getting involved in match-fixing".
"The ultimate objective was to get the match officials to make decisions on the pitch that were incorrect in order to benefit the match-fixers," Toh said.
The three Lebanese were arrested in April 2013 before they could officiate at an Asian Football Confederation Cup match between Singapore-based club Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal.
All three subsequently pleaded guilty. Sabbagh was jailed for six months while Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb served three-month sentences.
When he convicted Ding on July 1, the judge dismissed as "far-fetched" the businessman's argument that he was not a match-fixer but a freelance journalist with a local tabloid who had an "interest in writing about match-fixing".
State prosecutors had asked the court to hand down a stiff sentence of up to six years in jail and a maximum $242,000 fine.
"This court can show the international community our collective disdain for match-fixing with a severe sentence that would make a powerful and unambiguous statement that match-fixing and corruption in sport has no place in Singapore," they said in their written submission.
Prosecutors said they will appeal the sentence and seek a stiffer punishment for Ding, who in turn was seeking bail pending his own appeal.
The case is a colourful addition to Singapore's long history of match-fixing scandals.
In September last year, Singapore police nabbed 14 people believed to be members of a global match-fixing syndicate including the suspected mastermind Dan Tan.
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