Convicted match-fixer denied bail for appeal

Convicted match-fixer denied bail for appeal
Lavish: Eric Ding’s East Coast home with a sports car parked in the porch.

He had turned up in court while on bail, even after he was convicted.

His face, now easily recognisable after being splashed on international media, prevents him from going beyond the immigration counter.

But these arguments by defence lawyer Hamidul Haq failed to convince District Judge Toh Yung Cheong to continue granting bail to match-fixer Eric Ding Si Yang.

Judge Toh ruled yesterday that there was a risk of Ding absconding, which may harm Singapore's reputation of having a fair justice system and low levels of corruption.

He had earlier sentenced Ding, 32, to three years' jail for bribing three Lebanese match officials with free sexual services in return for fixing future matches.

The defence said that it intended to file an appeal against the conviction and sentence, and applied for Ding be granted bail pending the outcome of the appeal.

Citing Ding as a flight risk, the prosecution opposed the bail application.

High culpability

Explaining his ruling, Judge Toh said Ding had a "high level of individual culpability" and was "no doubt swayed by the potential profits".

Contributing to Ding's culpability, he said, was his persistence in getting the Lebanese match officials involved in match fixing.

This "assiduous pursuing" was also what led Deputy Public Prosecutor Alan Loh to ask for Ding to be denied bail and start serving his sentence immediately, or for the bail amount to be fixed at S$1 million with a Singaporean surety.

Increasing the bail amount modestly or imposing more conditions will not be enough to secure Ding's attendance at the appeal, the DPP said.

Mr Loh pointed out that when Ding's bail was increased to S$400,000 pending the verdict, a mysterious "Mr Lee" had contributed S$50,000.

Ding's father, who took the S$50,000 cash cheque from him, did not know his full name or contact number, prompting the DPP to call the contribution "highly suspect".

"Ding obviously has some ways and means to obtain bail monies such that a moderate increase in bail is not likely to deter him from absconding," he said.

Calling Ding "a man of substantial means", Mr Loh said he could well "buy a passage out of Singapore" with the sales proceeds from his Thai dance club, believed to be in Orchard Hotel.

During the trial, the prosecution had also alluded to Ding's lavish lifestyle, pointing out that he had paid cash for his S$1.1 million East Coast home.

Mr Loh also cited the case of former footballer Michael Vana, who fled Singapore in 1994 while on bail awaiting trial for allegedly accepting S$375,000 to influence the outcome of football matches.

Countering Mr Loh's arguments, Mr Haq said: "What iota of evidence has the prosecution produced to suggest for one moment that there is this likelihood that (Ding) will not attend court?"

Ding's circumstances had changed the moment he was convicted, he added.

"If he wanted to run or abscond, why wait for the sentence?" Mr Haq said, before going on to urge the judge to "temper justice with mercy" as Ding "has the right to have this matter heard in the High Court".

"He has already suffered as a result of this ruling. Let's not make this worse for him," Mr Haq said.

When Mr Loh said the world is watching how Singapore would respond to match fixers like Ding, Mr Haq countered: "The international world is watching that Singapore gives my client a fair trial, and to be given a fair and just outcome for even bail application, and not be treated separately."

Speaking to reporters later, defence counsel Thong Chee Kun said they planned to file a criminal motion in the High Court to "re-look at the issue" of bail.

The Attorney-General's Chambers also said that it intended to appeal against the sentence. The prosecution had earlier asked for a jail term of four to six years, and a fine of between S$120,000 and S$300,000 for Ding.

Timeline of events June 2012

Ding first meets Fifa-accredited referee Ali Sabbagh in a cafe in Beirut, Lebanon. Using the alias "James", he makes an offer to Mr Sabbagh, who was then earning US$850 (S$1,050) a month as a teacher in Lebanon.

Ding tells Mr Sabbagh that if he were to fix football matches for a year, he would make more money than he would as an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) referee for 10 years.

They exchange e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Mr Sabbagh later realises from their e-mail correspondence that Ding is a match fixer.

August 2012

Mr Sabbagh agrees to fix matches for Ding, feeding him information about international matches he is refereeing and the names of his assistant referees. But a month later, when Ding asks him to fix an AFC match in return for US$5,000, he refuses and is rebuked by Ding.

March 2013

Ding tries his luck again with Mr Sabbagh for an AFC Cup match in Iraq, but Mr Sabbagh refuses. In a phone conversation later that month, Mr Sabbagh tells Ding that he will be officiating in an AFC Cup match in Singapore in April, together with assistant referees Abdallah Taleb and Ali Eid.

Ding asks Mr Sabbagh if the officials have any requests during their stay in Singapore. Mr Sabbagh asks him to arrange for free sexual services.

April 2013

The three officials arrive in Singapore on April 1 to officiate an AFC Cup match on April 3. They stay at the Amara Hotel and meet Ding the following day at the Subway restaurant next door to discuss their preference for the women.

The meeting ends abruptly after the Lebanese suspect they are being photographed.

That night, three social escorts, each priced at S$500, turn up at Amara Hotel to provide sexual services to the three men.

Hours after the sexual trysts, they are hauled up by officers from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau. The Lebanese are charged on April 4 and later convicted.

Ding was charged on April 6.

"Ding obviously has some ways and means to obtain bail monies such that a moderate increase in bail is not likely to deter him from absconding."

- Deputy Public Prosecutor Alan Loh

"The accused made multiple attempts to get Ali Sabbagh involved... His persistence is clearly illustrated by e-mails between the two of them. They reflect a commitment and determination on his part to get Ali Sabbagh and the match officials... involved in match fixing."

- District Judge Toh Yung Cheong, in sentencing Ding to three years in jail.


This article was first published on July 25, 2014.
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