'No' to bail for man who fixed matches

'No' to bail for man who fixed matches
Eric Ding Si Yang, 32, was sentenced to three years in jail yesterday for bribing football officials. He intends to appeal against his conviction and sentence, and plans to contest the denial of bail.

Businessman Eric Ding Si Yang, who was sentenced to three years in jail yesterday for bribing football officials, began serving his prison term immediately despite intending to appeal against his conviction and sentence.

District Judge Toh Yung Cheong refused him bail as the 32-year-old Singaporean - even with his passport impounded - was considered a flight risk.

He pointed at how other football match-fixers had fled the country before. While this did not mean Ding will also go on the run, the judge said "it illustrates that match-fixers are part of a group" with the resources to help suspects abscond.

Judge Toh added that if Ding ran off, it could tarnish Singapore's image. Over the last few years, the country had been reported to be a centre of match- fixing for games around the world, including Europe. "The court is entitled to consider whether the offender absconding... will further harm Singapore's reputation," the judge said.

Ding was found guilty on July 1 of three counts of corruption for arranging prostitutes for a trio of Lebanese officials when they were in Singapore in April last year, in exchange for rigging games.

Prosecutors, who on Tuesday pushed for a prison term of between four and six years, and a fine of between $120,000 and $300,000, intend to appeal against his three-year jail sentence.

Meanwhile, defence counsel Hamidul Haq revealed that Ding also plans to contest the denial of bail, something that the prosecution robustly pushed for.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Alan Loh pointed out yesterday that Ding's roots were "not fully embedded" in Singapore as his Thai wife and daughter live in Bangkok. He added that Ding, as a match-fixer, has the "resources and network" to flee.

The court also heard yesterday that Ding's ill father had paid $230,000 and his uncle, $120,000, towards the accused's $400,000 bail. The remaining $50,000, however, came from "one Mr Lee".

Ding's father told the authorities he did not know the full name of this mystery man or have his contact number. "These circumstances show that the $50,000 is highly suspect," said DPP Loh.

Given how the rise of online betting has made match-fixing harder to detect, there is "no guarantee" that Ding has not already re-offended over the course of the trial, he added.

Defence counsel Hamidul Haq described the prosecution's allegations as being "in the realm of speculation".

He argued that Ding's offences were "of no different category in terms of seriousness and gravity" to other corruption cases, like the sex-for-grades case against former law don Tey Tsun Hang and and the sex-for-contracts case against former civil defence chief Peter Lim Sin Pang. Both were granted bail pending appeals.

Mr Tey was later acquitted.

In sentencing Ding to three years in jail yesterday, the judge said his crimes were "premeditated and no doubt swayed by potential profits coupled with the difficulty in detecting such (match-fixing) offences" due to the use of the Internet.

But while agreeing that Ding was part of "an organised group", the judge, citing a lack of evidence, rejected the prosecution's contention that he was part of an international match-fixing syndicate masterminded by Dan Tan Seet Eng, who is under detention here. That was "one of the reasons why my sentence is below the sentencing range suggested by the prosecution", the judge said.

As to why he did not impose any fine, he explained: "No match was actually fixed and there was no evidence that the accused had benefited financially as a result of the offences."

Ding's lawyer Thong Chee Kun told reporters after the hearing: "He looks forward to clearing his name at the High Court."

This article was first published on July 25, 2014.
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