Three Lebanese soccer officials were convicted of corruption in Singapore after pleading guilty in a case involving the trading of sexual favors to fix matches.
Subordinate Courts Judge Low Wee Ping today sentenced assistant referees Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb each to three months in jail, and reserved his decision on referee Ali Sabbagh until tomorrow. Each of the three received sexual services valued at S$500 ($400) from a businessman in Singapore to fix matches, according to Asoka Markandu, the prosecutor.
“The Singapore public has an interest in preserving football as a professional sport in Singapore,” Low said. “Singapore is proud to have an almost corruption-free society.”
Europol and police were probing attempts to fix more than 380 games, including World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, with involvement from a Singapore-based operation, Europe’s law enforcement agency said in February. The corruption charges, filed after Europol’s report, carry a maximum jail term of five years and a fine of as much as S$100,000.
“They’ve tarnished the reputation of FIFA,” Asoka said, referring to the Federation Internationale de Football Association, soccer’s governing body. The three traded sportsmanship for sexual favors and damaged the integrity of the “beautiful game,” the prosecutor said.
The men entered a guilty plea today after earlier intending to stand trial to contest the charges. All are first-time offenders and received no financial benefit, said Gary Low, their lawyer.
The businessman, Ding Si Yang, had told Sabbagh he could make more money in a year through fixing matches than as a referee in 10 years, the prosecutor said. Sabbagh, a sports teacher in Lebanon, earned $850 a month, and all three men are willing to testify against Ding, the lawyer said.
Sabbagh shouldn’t be jailed for more than six months, the lawyer told the judge.
“I don’t accept that you should be sentenced to only six months,” Judge Low told Sabbagh.
The men were scheduled to officiate an April 3 Asian Football Confederation Cup game in Singapore. They were replaced before the match between Singapore-based Tampines Rovers and East Bengal, which won 4-2 in a game that included an own goal by the Rovers.
Low, the lawyer, was hired to represent the men by the Lebanese Football Association. The men officiate in the top Lebanese league and AFC games, and have overseen matches between national teams, the association’s President Hachem Haydar said April 5.
The criminal cases are Public Prosecutor v Ali Sabbagh, DAC11104/2013, Public Prosecutor v Ali Eid, DAC11106/2013 and Public Prosecutor v Abdallah Taleb, DAC11105/2013, Singapore Subordinate Courts.
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