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Lebanese referee handed 6-month jail term

Singapore, PTI | Updated : 11 June 2013, 08:25 PM

A Lebanese FIFA-accredited football referee was on Tuesday sentenced to six months' imprisonment for accepting bribe from a gambling-linked syndicate as an inducement to fix an AFC Cup match in April.

Referee Ali Sabbagh, 34, and two compatriot linesmen - Ali Eid, 33, and Abdallah Taleb, 37, were arrested by the local police on April 3, hours before they were to officiate the match between Indian side East Bengal and Tampine Rovers.

They were replaced and the match, which was conducted by other officials, has nothing to do with the corruption case.

Each of the trio admitted to one charge of accepting sexual gratification from a prostitute in return for fixing the match, according to a report by Channel News Asia.

The court had sentenced Eid and Taleb to three months' jail each yesterday. But their sentences were backdated to April when they were arrested. They were reportedly released yesterday itself.

In handing down the sentence to Sabbagh today, District Judge Low Wee Ping said he agreed that an imprisonment term of six months was suitable for Sabbagh as he was more culpable.

The judge noted that the defence had placed much emphasis on the point that whilst Sabbagh received sexual gratification, there was no agreement between him and Singaporean businessman Eric Ding Si Yang to fix any match in Singapore or elsewhere. Ding, 31, allegedly provided prostitutes to the linesmen.

Another key point highlighted in court was that while Sabbagh and the other two linesmen received gratification on April 3, they did not intend to fix the match that was to be played the same day.

The judge, however, pointed out that the charge was a grave one. A significant point, said the judge, was that Ding was cultivating Sabbagh, who in turn cultivated Eid and Taleb.

Sabbagh had the potential to influence many football matches as he was a FIFA-accredited referee, said the judge. Sabbagh's sentence will be backdated to April.

Looking relieved, Sabbagh thanked the judge for leniency, said the CNA report. Ding is out on a Singapore Dollar 300,000 bail.

First Published: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 08:24 PM
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