Three officials questioned over Singapore match-fixing scandal
SINGAPORE (AP) -- A referee and his two assistants were questioned by Singapore corruption officials Wednesday over possible match-fixing ahead of an Asian Football Confederation Cup game.
The Football Association of Singapore said it was informed that the three officials assigned to handle the Wednesday match in the second-tier competition between Singapore club Tampines Rovers and East Bengal of India were assisting the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau with their investigations.
The association would not say whether the officials had been arrested or if any charges had been filed.
It said the officials were referee Ali Sabbagh and assistant referees Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb, from Lebanon. Replacement officials were later named for the match.
"Singapore and FAS have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to match-fixing and football corruption which includes the imposition of permanent suspension from all football activities on any player or official convicted in a court of law for football corruption offenses,'' the FAS statement said. "We take a serious view of allegations pertaining to match-fixing and football corruption activities and the authorities and FAS will spare no effort in minimizing the possibility of such activities taking place within the local football scene.''
Sabbagh, 33, is a FIFA-accredited referee who has officiated at some 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
Singapore has been mentioned previously in match-fixing investigations, and in late February, FIFA banned 74 more officials and players from Italy and South Korea with some Singaporean connections.
Sanctions were extended globally on 70 people, including 11 life bans, after a series of cases prosecuted by Italian football authorities.
Italian prosecutors in Cremona, Bari and Napoli pieced together a conspiracy they believe was organized from Singapore to bet on rigged Italian football matches.
Just before the bans were announced, Italian authorities detained suspect Admir Suljic, a Slovenian national, when he landed in Milan on a flight from Singapore.
Suljic, allegedly an associate of Singaporean businessman Tan Seet Eng, faces charges of criminal association and sports fraud.
Tan, also known as Dan Tan, is accused of heading a crime syndicate that has made millions of dollars gambling on fixed matches around the world.
Singapore police said in February that Tan was assisting its investigation into alleged match-fixing.
The latest global sanctions were announced two days after FIFA extended bans to 58 people found guilty of match-fixing offenses in China. Of those, FIFA expelled 33 from football for life, including 2002 World Cup referee Lu Jun.
On Wednesday, the Football Association of Singapore said the most-recent developments showed a willingness by its group to end match-fixing.
"The FAS is pleased to note that several organizations, including the AFC and Interpol, have commended us for our commitment and efficiency in fighting match-fixing, which has become a global scourge,'' the FAS statement said.