Judge raises match-fixer Eric Ding’s jail term from 3 years to 5

Judge raises match-fixer Eric Ding’s jail term from 3 years to 5
Former TNP tipster Eric Ding Si Yang (left), a Singaporean businessman with alleged ties to an international match-fixing ring who has been convicted of providing three Lebanese football officials with prostitutes as bribes for fixing future matches, arrives at the State Courts for sentencing on 24 July 2014.

Football match-fixer Eric Ding Si Yang, 32, was "no mere errand boy" in the syndicate he worked for, a High Court judge said yesterday.

Instead, he was effectively the frontman of the illegal organisation.

Justice Chan Seng Onn said he took that into account when deciding to increase Ding's jail term from three years to five years for inducing three Lebanese referees to fix matches.

Ding had been convicted after a 25- day trial and sentenced to three years' jail last July, but had appealed.

The prosecution also appealed against the sentence, asking for a stiffer jail term - double what Ding was given - and also for a fine of at least $120,000.

The trial judge had said that there was no evidence that Ding had played a "major role" in a large match-fixing syndicate.

But Justice Chan disagreed.

He also said Ding had used a high level of operational security to conduct his business.

He used a SIM card registered to an unknown foreigner, his laptop was encrypted, and his e-mail and messaging services also involved encrypted communications.

The judge said that match-fixing is becoming increasingly profitable for syndicates, with the market said to be worth in the range of hundreds of billions of euros a year.

He added that some large bookmakers reportedly have revenues as big as Coca-Cola's.

Justice Chan noted that Singapore has gained a reputation as a haven for match-fixers.

In an investigation by Europol and several European countries from 2011 to 2013, it was found that there were attempts to fix more than 380 matches, involving 425 officials and players from over 15 countries.

About 150 of these cases and their operations were said to be run out of Singapore, with bribes of up to 100,000 euros (S$153,000) paid per match.

Singapore is pursuing a goal of becoming a prime international sporting venue with the hosting of the Formula 1 Grand Prix and investments of hundreds of millions into building the new Sports Hub, said the judge.

"The economic repercussions for not severely curtailing match-fixing in Singapore are therefore all too apparent," said Justice Chan.

He said the harm of match-fixing is multi-fold. "All might be fair in love and war, but in sport, one must play by the rules," he said. no glory in cheating Match-fixing, he added, "robs from the participants the glory of true sporting achievement, it denies viewers from witnessing an authentic spectacle and it distorts the betting market for illegal gain".

Justice Chan also quoted Mr Hein Verbruggen, president of SportAccord, an umbrella body for 105 sports federations, who said: "Integrity in sport is our most important commodity. Fans must believe what they see on the field of play represents a true test of the competitors' skills.

"If they cannot, there is a real risk that they will ignore the sport and take sponsors and broadcasters with them."

However, the judge decided not to impose a fine on Ding even though the prosecution pressed for an additional fine of up to $100,000 per charge on top of the jail term.

Justice Chan said the purpose of a fine in corruption cases was to "disgorge the offender's substantial benefit from his offending".

In Ding's case, since his offence did not yet result in a match being fixed or him benefiting financially, Justice Chan agreed with the trial judge's decision not to impose a fine.

This article was first published on January 17, 2015.
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