Lebanese ref 'given match-fixing lessons on YouTube'

A Lebanese football referee jailed for accepting free sex to rig Asian zone matches testified Monday that a Singaporean businessman used YouTube to show him how to fix a game.

Singaporean businessman Eric Ding Si Yang (C) leaves a district court with his lawyers during a break on the first day of his corruption trial in Singapore on July 15, 2013. A Lebanese football referee jailed for accepting sex in exchange for agreeing to rig matches testified Monday that a Singaporean businessman used YouTube to show him how to fix a game.

Ali Sabbagh, speaking on the first day of the trial of Eric Ding Si Yang, said the businessman sent him "20 to 30" YouTube links by email to "teach me how to make wrong decisions".

"The videos had too many decisions where the decision made by the referee is not the right decision," he said.

Ding is accused of providing Sabbagh, 34, and two other Lebanese officials with women who gave them free sexual services before a match in Singapore in April in which they were supposed to officiate.

Sabbagh and the other two officials were withdrawn from duty and placed under investigation before the match. He was found guilty in June and sentenced to six months in jail over the scandal.

Assistant referees Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb were also convicted and have since been released and deported.

Sabbagh said that in a series of email exchanges late last year, Ding told him that the best way to rig a match was to award penalties.

Sabbagh quoted Ding as saying that "nobody will stop you, nobody will do anything... When the corner comes, just blow and say pushing and pulling... If there is anything in the penalty area, you can blow your whistle".

Sabbagh repeatedly referred to Ding as "James", saying the Singaporean communicated with him through the email address jameszen7@gmail.com

He said Ding, currently out on bail, gave him assurances that he would not be asked to rig matches that would affect his career within the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Sabbagh, who is scheduled to be released from jail on August 3, told the court that he was the one who first proposed that Ding "arrange for girls" when the three match officials were in Singapore for the AFC Cup tie between Singapore's Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal in April.

Sabbagh said Ding asked them to choose between Colombian or Asian girls and "we all told him we want Asian girls".

He added that Ding had likely offered the free sexual favours with the expectation that they would help rig unspecified AFC Champions League matches to be held in South Korea, Qatar and Iran soon after the game in Singapore.

"He (Ding) is very interested in these matches, there is too much spectators, there is too much goals," Sabbagh said in stuttering English.

Dressed in a crisp white shirt and black pants, Ding appeared relaxed and appeared to show disapproval at parts of Sabbagh's testimony.

State prosecutors said in an opening statement that they filed three charges against Ding for "corruptly giving gratification to three football officials as an inducement to fix football matches that they would officiate in the future".

Ding faces a maximum prison term of five years and fines of up to Sg$100,000 (US$80,000) for each count of corruption. He denies the charges.

He separately faces two charges of stealing evidence and obstructing police investigations after he declined to disclose the password to his laptop computer.

The case is a colourful addition to Singapore's long history of match-fixing scandals, including allegations that syndicates in the wealthy city-state organised the rigging of hundreds of games worldwide.

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Writer: AFP
Position: News agency