'Reject testimony' of absent witnesses

'Reject testimony' of absent witnesses
Ding, wearing sunglasses, and one of his lawyers Thong Chee Kun leaving the court.

SINGAPORE - The trial of alleged match-fixer Eric Ding Si Yang has turned into a duel over whether to allow statements from two linesmen who slept with prostitutes he supposedly provided.

Prosecutors said on Wednesday that "reasonable efforts" had been made to get the two Lebanese linesmen, who were deported in June after serving three months in jail, to return and testify.

As such, the four statements they gave to anti-graft officers should be admitted as evidence despite their absence, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Alan Loh, adding that such a move was "not unprecedented".

But the defence argued that the steps taken to bring back linesmen Abdallah Taleb, 37, and Ali Eid, 33, were "piecemeal" at best, going so far as to say that the case's lead investigating officer "in fact didn't even try".

During a relentless cross-examination, Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) officer Jeffrey Tan admitted he did not verify the contact information provided by the linesmen before they left, nor was he aware if the numbers were for home or mobile.

"So even if they had given you a number in Timbuktu you wouldn't know?" asked defence counsel Hamidul Haq.

He also questioned why Arabic interpreters were not engaged when Mr Tan made the telephone calls - three to Mr Eid and four to Mr Taleb over two days. Nor was an e-mail message that was later sent to them translated.

Mr Haq said: "You had an indication that the person can't speak to you about this, and it is an important matter, and you didn't want to get hold of an interpreter to help you."

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