'You'll make more money in a year through match-fixing than as a referee for 10'

Eric Ding Si Yang, 31, a Singapore businessman, allegedly first met Sabbagh in a Beirut cafe last June, through another Lebanese referee. He had wooed the Lebanese football coach with promises of quick cash and sex to let him fix the three AFC Champions League matches that Sabbagh was scheduled to officiate in South Korea, Qatar and Iran.  

SINGAPORE - As a teacher who organised inter-school sports in Lebanon, Fifa-accredited referee Ali Sabbagh earned US$850 (S$1,060) a month.

A mysterious man, known to him only as "James", turned his head with this offer: Fix football matches for a year, and you will make more money than you would as an AFC (Asian Football Confederation) referee for 10 years.

Sabbagh, 34, first met "James" at a cafe in Beirut last June through Hadi El Kassar, a fellow Lebanese referee.

During this meeting, "James" claimed to run a company which organised international friendly matches.

He said he was prepared to pay officials for their flights, accommodation and expenses at the same rate as Fifa.

They exchanged e-mail addresses and mobile numbers, through which Sabbagh deduced that the man he met was Singaporean.

He was right. "James" was identified in court papers as an alias allegedly used by Eric Ding Si Yang, 31, a Singapore businessman who was also a football tipster with The New Paper from 2006 to last year.

After exchanging several e-mail messages with Ding, Sabbagh realised he was dealing with a match-fixer.

But Ding allegedly reassured him that "he will not be forced to fix any match, and that it would be totally up to him".

In August last year, Sabbagh finally caved in and agreed to do "jobs" for the Singaporean.

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