Judge: Defence was 'far-fetched'

Judge: Defence was 'far-fetched'
Sex-for-match-fixing trial involving Eric Ding

After a 25-day sex-for-match-fixing trial, businessman Eric Ding Si Yang, 32, was yesterday found guilty of bribing three Lebanese match officials with free sexual services from social escorts in return to fix future matches.

The prosecution had "proven the essential elements of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt", said District Judge Toh Yung Cheong.

One of these elements included the accused's "corrupt intent".

Ding, a former freelance writer for The New Paper, had previously written about football and must have known that match fixing was illegal, Judge Toh said.

Calling the defence theory that Ding was cultivating a journalistic source "far-fetched", he added: "In fact, his claim that he was a freelance journalist could provide ideal cover for his illegal activities and also grant him access to match officials."

NO EVIDENCE

He also dismissed the claim that Ding was writing a match-fixing book as there was "no evidence of a book in progress", like recorded phone conversations with his sources. Ding will be sentenced on July 22. He can be fined up to $100,000 or jailed up to five years, or both.

Judge Toh established the gratification for the Lebanese match officials Ali Sabbagh, Abdallah Taleb and Ali Eid - in the form of free sexual services by social escorts - before establishing Ding as a match fixer and finding him guilty.

Based on the statements of the three match officials, Ding had sent the three social escorts to them.

"The fact that the social escorts were told not to collect payment from their clients was significant as it rules out other possibilities," Judge Toh said.

For instance, if the Lebanese had arranged for the social escorts themselves, they would have paid for their services, he said.

He added that a middleman could have been involved in arranging the social escorts - unless Ding is in the social escort business - but this did not affect his findings. Referring to the e-mail exchanges between Ding and Mr Sabbagh, the judge concluded that Ding was indeed involved in match fixing.

One e-mail sent by Ding under the alias James contained more than 20 links to YouTube videos showing penalties awarded during football matches. It was the only e-mail found in his laptop - encrypted.

"(This) was a significant e-mail as people do not normally send Fifa official links to videos showing bad or controversial refereeing decisions and then telling them to do a 'good job'," he said.

Pointing out that no other e-mails between them were found in Ding's laptop, Judge Toh added: "It appears that he was loath to delete (the e-mail) because it was a meticulously curated set of YouTube links and he may have had reason in the future to send it to other referees."

CONCLUSION

E-mails from Ding retrieved from Mr Sabbagh's laptop made several references to "job" and "business", which Judge Toh concluded was about match fixing.

The judge then touched on how he made the "irresistible inference" that the gratification in the form of free sexual services was linked to Ding's involvement in match fixing.

He said: "There was no reason for the accused to give the match officials anything. His relationship with (Mr Sabbagh) could not be characterised as 'friendship' and he had no pre-existing relationship with Taleb and Eid."

He then referred to another e-mail Ding had sent to Mr Sabbagh. Ding had asked him about Mr Taleb and Mr Eid, and if they would be "interested in doing business" - a euphemism for match fixing.

(This) was a significant e-mail as people do not normally send Fifa official links to videos showing bad or controversial refereeing decisions and then telling them to do a 'good job'.

- District Judge Toh Yung Cheong


This article was first published on July 2, 2014.
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