A Lebanese referee was sentenced to six months in jail here yesterday for accepting free sex in return to fix a match in Singapore. Ali Sabbagh, 34, and linesmen Ali Eid, 33, and Abdallah Taleb, 37, were accused of accepting sex paid for by Singapore businessman Eric Ding Si Yang.
They were pulled out before the start of an April 3 match between India’s East Bengal and Tampines Rovers of Singapore match and were remanded on April 4. The linesmen were sentenced to three months each in jail and were released from prison on Monday as their sentencing was backdated to the date they were remanded.
They were to be deported to Lebanon yesterday, the Straits Times reported. District judge Low Wee Ping said Sabbagh’s sentence had to be a “multiple” of his assistants because he was the one approached by the syndicate and the one who persuaded the two linesmen to accept the sexual bribe.
“The principle of parity of sentence does not apply to you. You have to be sentenced based on the more aggravating factors in your case,” the judge said. The judge said Sabbagh’s sentence took into account his guilty plea and the fact that his acceptance of the bribe did not result in any football match being rigged.
“There was no correlation between the sexual services the three of you received and the football match on the same day,” added the judge referring to the AFC Cup tie between Tampines Rovers and East Bengal on April 3 that the three Lebanese referees were slated to officiate.
Sabbagh, a sports teacher in his country, started sobbing as the judge read the verdict and later thanked him before he was led away in shackles by police officers. His lawyer earlier told the court that Sabbagh would be the “star prosecution witness” in the case against Ding, who allegedly supplied the prostitutes to the trio.
Ding, described by Singaporean media as a nightclub owner, has also been charged with corruption and is currently out on bail awaiting trial. State prosecutors said the Lebanese referee expressed his preference for “tall Asian girls” to Ding during one of their meetings.
Ding also told Sabbagh that he would “make more in one year through match fixing than he would as an AFC referee for 10 years”, according to a statement released by the prosecutors.