Lebanese officials in match-fixing trial: We're not coming back to testify

Eric Ding.

SINGAPORE - They were expected in court on Tuesday to testify in the match-fixing trial of businessman Eric Ding Si Yang.

But the two Lebanese football officials, who were deported in June after serving jail terms of three months each for corruption, decided not to return to testify.

Instead, in a surprising turn of events for the defence, their statements were prepared by the prosecution to be admitted as evidence in court.

Ding, 31, is on trial for allegedly bribing three Lebanese football officials with free sexual services from prostitutes to induce them to fix future matches.

It was revealed in an ancillary hearing as part of Ding's trial on Tuesday that Mr Abdallah Taleb, 37, and Mr Ali Eid, 33, had, through the Lebanese Football Association and a Lebanese diplomat in Singapore, informed the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) that they had no plans to return to testify.

Recorded statements are usually not allowed to be admitted as evidence without the witness testifying in court unless there are exceptional circumstances.

An ancillary hearing would help to determine if these statements could be tendered as court evidence.

'Nothing to add'

Said CPIB investigating officer Jeffrey Tan, who was the first witness to take the stand: "Each of them say they have made clear and detailed statements in their involvement with Ding Si Yang, and have nothing to add to the statement which can assist the prosecution in the trial."

Mr Tan went on to outline the efforts he made to contact Mr Eid and Mr Taleb, which included calling the duo at 3am (Lebanon time) because "someone would be home in that hour".

The trial was then adjourned to allow the defence counsel to prepare for cross-examination of Mr Tan.

Ding's lawyer, Mr Hamidul Haq, had requested for more time due to the six-hour time difference with Lebanon.

Referring to Mr Tan's testimony in court, Mr Haq went on to explain that he was "not in the habit of waking people up at 3am in the morning" to get a response.

That was not the first barb from Mr Haq on Tuesday.

Before the ancillary hearing, he had already objected "vehemently" to the admission of the statements as this would not allow the defence to cross-examine the witnesses.

When Deputy Public Prosecutor Alan Loh called for Mr Tan to take the stand in the ancillary hearing, the defence counsel objected once again, calling it an "ambush" as he was not aware of the prosecution's intention until then.

The trial is expected to continue on Wednesday with the cross-examination of Mr Tan by Mr Haq.

fjieying@sph.com.sg


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