THREE football referees from Lebanon have pleaded guilty in a Singapore court to agreeing to rig a match in exchange for sexual favours arranged by a global betting syndicate.
Referee Ali Sabbagh and assistants Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb had been due to referee an Asian Football Confederation Cup match in Singapore on April 3 when they were pulled from the game at the last minute. They were arrested and charged with corruption the next day, and have been held on remand ever since.
Singaporean businessman Eric Ding Si Yang has been granted bail after being charged with providing the prostitutes involved in the bribe.
The referees’ defence lawyer Gary Low said that while the officiating crew did accept the bribe, they did not go on to rig the outcome of a match.
Low said: “The gratification was arranged by Mr Ding Si Yang with a view to fixing a football match in the future. Our clients did not reach an agreement with Ding to fix a particular football match.
“In these circumstances, our clients’ conduct did not in any way affect or influence the outcome of any football match.”
Eid and Taleb were jailed for three months, though Judge Low Wee Ping said they could be freed imminently due to time already served awaiting sentence. Sentence for Sabbagh has been deferred, after the judge said he needed more time to consider his punishment.
Singapore has a history of football match-fixing and corruption, and Interpol have repeatedly claimed that matches in top European leagues have been influenced by betting syndicated from the island in south-east Asia.