Sex-for-match-fixing trial: Lawyers tussle over 'ill-gotten gains'

Sex-for-match-fixing trial: Lawyers tussle over 'ill-gotten gains'

He paid cold, hard cash for a $281,403 Porsche 911 and a $1.1 million terrace house at East Coast.

Eric Ding Si Yang, who was convicted earlier this month of bribing three Lebanese match officials with prostitutes to fix future matches, also bought a $551,500 Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

This was despite his "relatively young age of 32", with his highest educational achievement being an advanced diploma in mass communications, the prosecution pointed out in written submissions for sentencing.

LIFE OF LUXURY

Calling for a stiffer "exemplary sentence" in court yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Alan Loh said these luxury goods were benefits reaped from the "lucrative" business of match fixing.

Ding's lawyer, Mr Thong Chee Kun, later countered: "The fact that Mr Ding had made certain purchases does not mean to say that Mr Ding has used ill-gotten gains to finance his lifestyle."

He said that Ding was still paying for his Aston Martin in instalments.

Adding that there was no evidence of Ding's "alleged financial profits and ill-gotten gains", Mr Thong said: "They cannot simply come to court and allege Mr Ding could afford these things and therefore, he must have obtained everything he has in life through illegal activities."

This prompted Mr Loh to point out prosecution witness Stanley Ho's testimony that he knew Ding was "heavily involved" in football betting and felt that Ding was a very successful punter.

"Of course, we now know that the accused's football betting activities were profitable for him because he fixed the matches he betted on," Mr Loh said.

He also said that Ding was part of a match-fixing syndicate.

ENCRYPTED E-MAILS

Referring to Ding's encrypted e-mails which came up during the trial, Mr Loh said they showed that Ding was "part of a criminal syndicate of persons communicating over encrypted channels" and using the same encrypted channels to carry out their match-fixing activities.

Ding's messages to former Lebanese referee Ali Sabbagh, which saw him using words like "my company" and "we" also showed that he did not operate alone, the DPP said.

He linked Ding to Dan Tan, a Singaporean who was named by Interpol as "the leader of the world's most notorious match-fixing syndicate".

After an article was published about Tan being heavily involved in fixing matches in Europe together with Wilson Raj Perumal, court documents showed that Ding had sent an anonymous e-mail to the writer to defend Tan, the DPP said.

Mr Thong described Mr Loh's attempt to link Tan and Ding as "loose pieces of evidence".

He said the level of encryption of the contents of Ding's laptop was "not sophisticated".

Adding that part of the encrypted portion of the laptop contained Ding's personal photographs, Mr Thong said: "(The encryption software) was commercially available, and (the prosecution) has led no evidence to show how the encryption must necessarily mean that there was a syndicate operating in the background."

Prosecution: Why a stiffer sentence is needed

Calling for a stiff "exemplary sentence" yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Alan Loh asked for Ding to be jailed for two to three years and fined between $40,000 and $100,000 for each of his three charges.

This adds up to jail terms of four to six years, and fines of between $120,000 to $300,000. The prosecution gave these reasons for its stand:

1. PUBLIC INTEREST DEMANDS STIFF SENTENCE

The world has its eyes on Singapore, with Ding's case being reported in several foreign papers like UK's Financial Times, Bloomberg and Hong Kong's The Standard.

Singapore has also been criticised for not doing enough against match-fixing after Europol found that 150 of 380 rigged matches worldwide were done by people operating here.

Adding that it is difficult to arrest match fixers, the prosecution said: "Whenever we are able to catch a match fixer, an example must be made of him to let his comrades know that what awaits them is not a life of luxury, but years of life behind bars."

The defence, however, said what the prosecution is asking for is a "departure from benchmark sentences", citing previous cases.

"It cannot be right, Your Honour, to make Mr Ding pay for the sins of every match fixer in Singapore," Ding's lawyer, Mr Thong Chee Kun, said.

2. THE OFFENCE WAS PREMEDITATED

Ding's "persistent conduct" in pursuing former Lebanese referee Ali Sabbagh led the prosecution to conclude that Ding's offences were planned.

Ding had cultivated trust and temptation over time by sending iPhones and money to Mr Sabbagh's Lebanese colleagues.

He also had to arrange, through his conduits, for three women to be taken to Amara Hotel - where the former match officials were staying - to provide gratification for them.

3. THE ACCUSED IS NOT REMORSEFUL

Instead of cooperating with the authorities, Ding tried to slip a receipt linking him to his match-fixing syndicate in his sock during his interview with the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), the prosecution submitted.

Referring to Ding's defence as "an entire fairy tale" spun in court, as well as the defence making "baseless allegations" against the CPIB officers, the prosecution said these factors indicated a lack of remorse.

Ding's lawyers: Jail or fine, but not both

Ding's lawyers asked for a high fine with no jail term, or a jail term of not more than three months for the charge involving former Lebanese referee Ali Sabbagh, and not more than a month each for the charges involving the two former assistant referees Abdallah Taleb and Ali Eid.

Here are some reasons:

1. DING'S ACTIONS CAUSED NO HARM

No match was fixed. There was no actual loss or damage caused to members of the public who bet on football matches. The integrity of the "beautiful game" was also not compromised, Ding's lawyers argued.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Alan Loh, however, pointed out that Ding's actions had already tarnished Singapore's reputation. He had also cost the three Lebanese former match officials their jobs.

Mr Sabbagh has been banned from refereeing for life while Mr Taleb and Mr Eid are banned for 10 years.

2. THE VALUE OF THE BRIBE WAS LOW

The gratification, in the form of sexual services, offered to each match official is valued at $500, a considerably low figure. There was no direct financial benefit to the Lebanese.

In rebuttal, DPP Loh said the value should not be the "sole determining factor of culpability".

There are far more important factors, like how Ding committed a syndicated crime and how the former match officials were not just in the S League but were Fifa- and Asian Football Confederation-accredited.

3. DING HAD A CLEAN RECORD

Other than an "otherwise unblemished record", Ding had "served our nation faithfully", including a voluntary six-month extended National Service stint.

He has been a filial son to his father, who is plagued with a myriad of illnesses like gout and chronic renal failure. Ding is also a supportive brother to his sister, who is battling depression.

fjieying@sph.com.sg 


This article was first published on July 23, 2014.
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