Sex for football fraud: Lebanese referees jailed for match fixing
A Singaporean businessman was sentenced to three years in prison today for giving three Lebanese football referees prostitutes in return for agreeing to fix a match. Did the Lebanese referees actually rig a match though? No! They were abruptly pulled out of the match and replaced before it started...
The Straits Times reported that Ali Sabbagh, 34, the leader of the three Lebanese football referees first met a Singaporean businessman, Eric Ding, 31, in June 2012 at a cafe in Beruit. Ding, a nightclub owner with an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Porsche 911 and property worth over USD2 million, all paid for in cash, offered Sabbagh free sex with prostitutes in return for fixing a match. Ding used the alias "James" and used the email address "firstname.lastname@example.org" in his correspondence with Sabbagh.
The match in question? The Asian Football Confederation Cup tie between the Singapore-based Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal on 3 April 2013 which the three referees were slated to officiate.
In response to Ding's sex for match fixing offer, Sabbagh expressed a preference for "tall Asian girls". Al-Akhbar reported that over subsequent meetings and email exchanges, Ding sent Sabbagh, who was a sports teacher in Lebanon, "20 to 30" YouTube links to teach him "how to make wrong decisions." Ding told Sabbagh that that the best way to rig a match was to award penalties because "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." Ding assured Sabbagh that he would not have to rig matches that would detriment his career with the Asian Football Confederation.
According to al-Akhbar, the judge sentencing Sabbagh said that as "there was no correlation between the sexual services the three of you received and the football match on the same day" Sabbagh would be sentenced to jail for six months. Sabbagh pleaded guilty and sobbed during the sentencing, but later thanked the judge before being taken away in handcuffs. Sabbagh's key offenses were agreeing to fix the game and convincing two Lebanese assistant football referees Ali Eid, 33, and Abdallah Taleb, 37, to collude in the match fixing. The two assistant referees were each jailed for three months for their lesser roles.
Singapore has a long history of match-fixing, and syndicates from the wealthy Southeast Asian island have been blamed by European police for orchestrating a network responsible for rigging hundreds of games worldwide. For Ding's part, he was sentenced to three years in prison.
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