Match-fixing trial: Ding may be source quoted in article

In 2011, accused match-fixer Eric Ding Si Yang promised The New Paper (TNP) a source who could shed light on the elusive alleged ringleader of a global match-fixing syndicate.

But it emerged in court on Thursday that the 31-year-old Ding was likely the anonymous source who described Dan Tan Seet Eng as a "generous businessman" who "always has a soft spot for people who need his help" in the Dec 23, 2011 article.

Ding, a businessman, stands accused of bribing three Fifa-accredited Lebanese officials - referee Ali Sabbagh, 34, and linesmen Ali Eid, 33, and Abdallah Taleb, 37 - with prostitutes to induce them into fixing a match.

The officials, who have been deported after serving their jail terms, were arrested on the morning of an Asian Football Confederation Cup game between Singapore's Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal, which they had been set to officiate.

Ding's trial resumed for its third tranche on Thursday, with Straits Times sub-editor Stanley Ho, who was previously with TNP, testifying against Ding.

The close friends first met 10 years ago, when they were colleagues at the Today newspaper.

Mr Ho said he was aware of his colleague's interest in the match-fixing industry, and that Ding, in 2009, indicated an intention to write a book.

Ding also proved himself to be a reliable source of information for TNP after he provided a scoop on the arrest of Singaporean match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, 47, in Finland in February 2011.

In December 2011, Ding - then based in Thailand - called Mr Ho after a match-fixing article involving Tan was published, asking why Tan was not contacted for his view. Mr Ho told the court: "He said that he knows someone who is willing to... give Dan Tan's side of the story.

"So I said, if you can, ask that person to e-mail me. I received an e-mail two hours later."

The e-mail was sent from the account, which was later established to have been used by Ding to communicate with referee Sabbagh, who was jailed for six months, double that of his two colleagues.

Tan, 48, is one of 14 suspected international match-fixers arrested in September in an islandwide sting. He is currently detained without trial under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act. His lawyer Hamidul Haq, who is also representing Ding, on Thursday told The Straits Times that an independent advisory committee has been formed to review the detention order. But the review has been adjourned.

Earlier on Thursday, TNP editor Dominic Nathan also took the stand. He rejected Mr Haq's suggestion that Ding did "investigative journalism to gather information for his colleagues in the newspaper to develop stories".

Instead, Ding was hired as a freelance writer with TNP from March 2006 to May last year, during which he published a weekly column titled From The Ground. Nicknamed the Lobang King - a colloquial term referring to someone in the know - he was also asked to join a panel of tipsters because he "was familiar with the game and familiar with betting odds", said Mr Nathan.

But Ding was never asked to work on any stories about match-fixing, nor was he asked to gather fresh information, Mr Nathan added.

Only when news about Perumal's arrest broke was he consulted as to whether he knew anything about match-fixing personalities, the court heard.

If convicted, Ding faces up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $100,000, or both.

The trial continues today.

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