Soccer referee jailed for 6 months in match -fixing case

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Ali Sabbagh, the Lebanese soccer referee who asked for free sexual services to fix matches, was sentenced to six months in jail for corruption in Singapore.

"One wonders how many international football matches you could have gone on to fix," Subordinate Courts Judge Low Wee Ping said today in imposing the sentence. Low yesterday sentenced Sabbagh's co-accused assistant referees Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb each to three months in jail.

The men were convicted yesterday after pleading guilty, in a case involving the trading of sexual favors to fix matches that was uncovered as part of a wider probe into games-rigging. Europol and police were investigating attempts to fix more than 380 games, including World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, with involvement from a Singapore-based operation, Europe's law enforcement agency said in February.

Singaporean businessman Ding Si Yang provided the men with women in a bid to induce them to fix matches, according to prosecutor Asoka Markandu. Sabbagh was more culpable than Eid and Taleb as he introduced them to Ding, the prosecutor said.

All three had their sentences backdated to April 4, resulting in Taleb and Eid being released from jail yesterday, Asoka said.

Sabbagh, a sports teacher in Lebanon, earned $850 a month, his lawyer Gary Low told the judge yesterday. He didn't benefit financially or influence any match from his "single act of transgression," the lawyer said.

The corruption charges, filed after Europol's report, carry a maximum jail term of five years and a fine of as much as S$100,000.

Will testify

Lawyer Low, who represents all three men, said they are willing to testify against Ding. Sabbagh was told by Ding he could make more money in a year by fixing matches than as a referee in 10 years, the prosecutor said.

The men were scheduled to officiate an April 3 Asian Football Confederation Cup game in Singapore. They were replaced before the match between Singapore-based Tampines Rovers and East Bengal, which won 4-2 in a game that included an own goal by the Rovers.

FIFA also suspended people in Italy, South Korea and China in February for allegedly being involved in rigging games.

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