Five in a fix

Top News | Yupina Ng 7 Oct 2016

Five professional footballers and a bookmaker have been arrested for allegedly fixing results of local matches.

The footballers, all connected to Hong Kong Pegasus FC, are said to have pocketed around HK$90,000.

Officers of the Independent Commission Against Corruption revealed yesterday that they launched an operation on Tuesday.

That led to them arresting an assistant coach/player, three players and a former player plus a man tagged as a bookie.

The coach/player is Lee Wai-lim, who received the award as Hong Kong's top footballer in 2009.

The players are the captain of Hong Kong Premier League side Pegasus, Kwok Kin-pong, players Chan Pak- hang and Lee Ka-ho and former player Cheng Lai-hin.

The operation started after the ICAC received a complaint alleging the fixing of matches in the Hong Kong Football Association's Reserve Division League in the 2015/16 season.

An investigation then revealed "that the five arrested players might have conspired to accept bribes from other persons, including the suspected bookmaker, as rewards for their participation in rigging four HKRDL matches involving the football club," the ICAC said in a statement.

"The alleged bribes were said to amount to over $90,000," it added, with the suspected bookie taking bets on the matches.

A number of other people, including players and staff members of Pegasus have also been questioned by the ICAC. Meanwhile, the arrested six have been released on bail.

Hong Kong Pegasus said in a statement that three players and a staff member had been suspended until the investigation was completed and there would not be any comment as the investigation was continuing.

Manager Peter Man Pei-tak said at least five of his players and others were absent from training in Tsing Yi yesterday morning, but they had applied for time off for "personal reasons."

He also said his players had performed as expected last season and appeared to have tried their best.

Hong Kong FA chief executive Mark Sutcliffe said the association had been aware of suspicious activity in some matches and that evidence gathered by the HKFA previously had been forwarded to relevant authorities including the ICAC.

"Given the focus on integrity, it is disappointing to note that further allegations of misconduct have come to light," Sutcliffe said.

"An investigation is currently being conducted by the law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong and therefore the HKFA will not comment further on specific and individual cases."

Association vice-chairman Pui Kwan-kay described the current case as "distressing" and said the HKFA had put checks in place and urged clubs to monitor player conduct since a match- fixing case two years ago. But "it was impossible to guard against" all potential fixing.

Given the relatively small amount involved in the case, Pui was asked if low pay for players could be related to the alleged fixing. He responded that fixing was illegal and unethical no matter the sums involved.

Hong Kong Pegasus chairwoman Canny Leung Chi-shan said on her Facebook page that she was returning from London to handle the matter.

In 2014, a Croatian player with Happy Valley was convicted of fixing a Division One match and sent to prison for 12 months.

Sasa Mus had been found guilty of teaming up with a sponsor and a deputy manager to fix a match with Royal Southern on November 30, 2013.

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