Match-fixing trial: Phone call to officials under scrutiny

A midnight phone call that may have been made to Lebanese football officials by alleged match-fixer Eric Ding Si Yang has come under court scrutiny.

Defence lawyer Yusfiyanto Yatiman on Wednesday said linesmen Abdallah Taleb, 37, and Ali Eid, 33, had specifically identified the caller in further statements they gave in June, but not in earlier statements recorded in April when they were arrested.

How could they have identified the caller in June - "more than two months after" the call took place on April 3 - but could only say the caller "was a male" in earlier statements, asked Mr Yusfiyanto in the continuing trial of local businessman Ding.

Ding is accused of bribing the linesmen and referee Ali Sabbagh, 34, with prostitutes in return for fixing a match. He is said to have made the midnight call to notify the match officials of the prostitutes' arrival at their hotel.

Mr Taleb, in his June statement to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), did not say he recognised the caller's voice.

But he told bureau officers he reasoned the caller must be "the same man they had met at a cafe" because he was "the only man they knew in Singapore", and "the only one who has (referee) Ali Sabbagh's phone number".

The court had earlier heard that Ding met the officials at a Subway sandwich restaurant on April 2.

Mr Yusfiyanto also suggested the two linesmen had identified the caller because they "wanted to avoid getting into further trouble with the CPIB on the day they were scheduled to leave for home".

CPIB officer Daryl Ng, who recorded the June 11 statements, disagreed, saying he recorded only what was told to him.

On the night of the call, Mr Taleb had answered the phone because Mr Sabbagh was asleep. The caller did not identify himself, and the call had "lasted all of nine seconds".

Mr Yusfiyanto argued that Mr Taleb could not have been able to communicate in English, which is contrary to the account in his statement.

Arabic interpreter Khaled Atwa Nabil on Wednesday said both linesmen had a "basic" grasp of English, and could understand "most of what the (CPIB) officer said".

The linesmen had pleaded guilty to match-fixing and were deported in June after serving their sentence. Although they said they would return to testify against Ding, neither did.

The defence has been trying to poke holes in the reliability of their statements by questioning apparent lapses in protocol, supposed gaps in logic and discrepancies in the statements.

Ding, if found guilty, can be fined up to $100,000, jailed up to five years, or given both punishments. The trial resumes on Tuesday, with Mr Atwa taking the stand for cross-examination.

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