Match-fixing trial: Referee gives contradictory statements

Lebanese referee Ali Sabbagh (above) said Eric Ding didn't say if he had to pay for sex with the girl.

SINGAPORE - Inconsistent. Flip-flopping. Ridiculous.

Those were the words of defence counsel Hamidul Haq when he cross-examined Lebanese referee Ali Sabbagh, 34, on Tuesday.


Mr Haq, who represents alleged match-fixer Eric Ding Si Yang, 31, found that some of Sabbagh's answers failed to tally with his evidence given on Monday.

One of the discrepancies was over Sabbagh telling the court on Monday how he had created a new e-mail address to communicate with Ding - whom he knew as James Zen - as his two existing e-mail addresses were shared with his wife.

However, when he mentioned the shared e-mail addresses on Tuesday, one of them was different from the ones he mentioned on Monday.

When Mr Haq tried to clarify this discrepancy, Sabbagh said "I'm a little confused", to which the defence lawyer said: "Because you're flip-flopping all the time."

Sabbagh said: "No, I speak the truth."

Ding's sex-for-match-fixing trial follows the conviction of three Lebanese football officials - including Sabbagh, who accepted the sexual gratification allegedly arranged by Ding.

Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: ST, Facebook, AFP)


Ding faces three charges of corruptly giving gratification to the three officials as an inducement to fix matches they would be officiating.

When Sabbagh said Ding blamed him for not fixing his first Asian Football Confederation (AFC) match in Kuwait last year, Mr Haq called his answer "inconsistent". He cited an e-mail Ding sent to Sabbagh in which he wrote that "there is no force or must do" to rig a match.

In another instance, the witness tried to account for the five sets of iPhone 5 Ding had allegedly sent to him and his three referee friends. The three friends had rigged a match, he said.

When Sabbagh said the fifth iPhone was for Ding himself, Mr Haq said: "James sent to Lebanon a mobile phone for himself. Your answer is getting more ridiculous by the moment, Mr Ali."

Mr Haq also challenged Sabbagh's insistence of never fixing a match. The referee had said on Monday that he had never rigged matches as it was important for his career advancement.

But when Mr Haq questioned his intention to first claim trial before pleading guilty, Sabbagh changed his tone.

He said he did not have sex with the "girl" allegedly arranged for by Ding with the intention of rigging a future match. But he said that he would consider it if Ding had asked again as he owed the Singaporean businessman "something in return".

In court on Tuesday, Mr Haq cited his client's reason for initiating contact with Sabbagh and other referees.

'Former journalist'

He asked Sabbagh if he knew the reason, and the Lebanese said: "Match fixing."

The defence counsel retorted: "He wanted to know more about your inclinations and preparedness for match fixing."

He then told the court that his client was a "former journalist with Singapore newspaper" who had written stories about match fixing and betting.

Later, Mr Haq, calling his previous description of Ding "erroneous", told the court that his client wanted him to clarify that he "does investigative journalism to gather information for his colleagues in the newspaper to develop stories".

"He actually gets information for his colleagues to write about and he also writes in football magazines," Mr Haq added.

The defence counsel also tried to refute Sabbagh's testimony that Ding offered to help him and his two assistant referees - Ali Eid, 33, and Abdullah Taleb, 37 - "find some girls".

The referee told the court on Monday that he was under the impression that he did not have to pay for the girls.

Mr Haq said it was never his client's intention to pay for the girls he had arranged for the trio, who had come to Singapore in April to officiate an Asian Football Confederation match between Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal.

He pointed out that Sabbagh had asked the woman how much he should pay her for having sex with him, indicating that he was not sure about whether the sex was free.


Mr Haq said: "So you confirm James never indicated to you for sure you would get free sex." Sabbagh replied: "He didn't mention free or not."

Mr Haq then said: "Most importantly, James never indicated to you that you would get free sexual service provided to you in exchange to fix a football match in the future."

Sabbagh agreed.

The trial continues on Wednesday.


ERIC Ding Si Yang , 31, is on trial for three counts of corruptly giving gratification to three Lebanese match officials in the form of sexual services to induce them to fix future matches.

If convicted, he can be fined up to $100,000 or jailed up to five years, or both, on each of the three charges.

The three officials - referee Ali Sabbagh, 34, and assistant referees Ali Eid, 33, and Abdullah Taleb, 37 - were convicted of accepting sexual gratification.

This was allegedly arranged by Ding.

Eid and Taleb were sentenced to three months' jail on June 10.

As their sentences were backdated to April 4, they were released on the same evening of their sentencing for good behaviour.

Sabbagh, who is the prosecution witness, was given a heavier sentence of six months' jail on June 11.

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