Ref claims he did not plan to bed hostess

Part-time hostess Ann, who slept with Lebanese referee Ali Sabbagh, 34, said she thought she would only be drinking or partying with her Lebanon guests

SINGAPORE - Three seconds was all it took for him to let the hostess into his room.

Defence counsel Hamidul Haq brought this up in court on Wednesday, following a check on the closed-circuit television footage on the night the Lebanese referee Ali Sabbagh, 34, had sex with a woman arranged by alleged match-fixer Eric Ding Si Yang.

Ding is alleged to have provided two other women for assistant referees Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb, who arrived in Singapore with Sabbagh to officiate the Asian Football Confederation match between Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal on April 3.

Referring to the footage, Mr Haq, who represents Ding, 31, in the trial, asked Sabbagh during cross-examination: "There was no resistance, correct?"

He denied this.

On Monday, Sabbagh said he told Eid and Taleb that he wanted to sleep, and that one of them could "play the two girls".

"They told me 'no, no, no' so I accepted," Sabbagh, who is the prosecution witness, said. Mr Haq then said: "But the key point is you willingly accepted the girl when she came into the room."

Sabbagh said: "Later I finished the discussion with my friend, I accepted her, of course."

Surprised

The slim and tall woman, who plied the trade by the name of Ann, told the court on Wednesday that Sabbagh was "surprised" but let her into the room.

She added that she and Sabbagh did not converse much as she had trouble understanding him. But she could sense he wanted to have sex with her by observing his "body language".

On that night, she said she was sitting on the bed when Sabbagh told her to help herself to the drinks in the room.

Then, the referee started touching her.

That was when Ms Ann realised that "this fellow wants to have sex", she said on Wednesday.

Relating the sequence of events that night to Deputy Public Prosecutor Grace Lim, Ms Ann said she thought she was just "partying" when she was told by the "mama-san" in the pub to entertain guests from Lebanon.

Even when she was driven to Amara Hotel - where the three Lebanese football officials were staying - together with two other colleagues, Ms Ann thought she would just be having drinks together with the Lebanon "customers" in a room.

It was only when she was alone in the room with Sabbagh did she realise what she was in for. The DPP then asked if Sabbagh paid her.

"Not a single cent," Ms Ann said.

The part-time hostess left the room about an hour later without asking for payment as she was earlier instructed at the pub not to do so.

Sabbagh, on the other hand, had told the court on Monday that he was under the impression that the hostesses were paid for by Ding - whom he knew as James Zen.

In the end, the woman who drove the three hostesses to meet the Lebanese trio at Amara Hotel paid them $450 each out of her own pocket.

For accepting bribes in the form of sexual gratification, Sabbagh was sentenced to six months' jail on June 11.

His two assistant referees - Eid and Taleb - were sentenced to three months' jail each on June 10 and have been released early for good behaviour.

Mr Haq asked Sabbagh if he blamed Ding for the "trouble" he is in.

"A little," the 34-year-old conceded. He later added: "I blame myself first."

Quick arrest

During the sex-for-match-fixing trial on Wednesday, Mr Haq also pointed out that it was "extremely fast time" - within a few hours - for someone to be arrested for a corruption offence. The Lebanese trio were arrested before dawn on April 3.

Mr Haq asked: "So somebody must have complained?" To which Sabbagh replied: "I don't know." Only his friends and Ding knew that the trio were meeting hostesses at night for sexual services, the referee said.

A Thai assistant referee, who allegedly asked Sabbagh to rig a Malaysia-Myanmar match last year, was also brought up in court on Wednesday.

Sabbagh said the Thai had asked him if he was "interested to do business".

"But I didn't understand, so I didn't continue the discussion with him," the Lebanese referee said. The trial continues on Tursday, with the other two hostesses expected to take the stand.

About the case

ERIC Ding Si Yang (right), 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 Abdallah Taleb, 37 - pleaded guilty to accepting sexual gratification 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 was given a heavier sentence of six months' jail on June 11.

Thursday is the last day of the first tranche of the trial. The trial will resume on Aug 27.