Sat, Oct 31, 2009
The China Post/Asia News Network
Three professional baseball players, all of the Brother Elephants team, confessed to prosecutors of playing fake games yesterday and returned their illegal payment as evidence.
With qualms of conscience, Elephants pitchers Li Hao-jen and Wu Bao-hsien, as well as outfielder Chu Hung-shen, admitted to prosecutors their roles in helping fix some baseball games.
Prosecutors in Banqiao of Taipei County said the three expressed deep regrets and offered apologies to their team, Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) and all of the baseball fans on the island.
Li, Wu, and Chu also surrendered their illegal gains of NT$200,000 (S$8620), NT$100,000 and NT$50,000 to the prosecutors' office.
The prosecutors said the trio's candid admission of the wrongdoing and submission of the under-table payment could help with their seeking more lenient treatment in prosecution and subsequent court trial.
They encouraged other players involved in the fifth massive scam of fixing games in the CPBL history to follow the three's example to rebuild their careers instead of adamantly denying their lawbreaking offenses.
The admission of the three came after they were summoned for additional questioning in the afternoon.
The management of the Brother Hotel Elephants issued a statement expelling Li, Wu, Chu and another player, pitcher Li Hao-jen, who already admitted earlier participating in the sports scam, from the team, effective immediately.
General manager Hung Rei-ho of the Elephants confirmed that the team will not renew its contract with Tsao Chin-hui -- the first Taiwanese pitcher to ever compete in the U.S. Major Leagues -- because of his meetings and spending time for meals and recreation with the bookie of the underground gambling ring.
Hung also expressed deep regrets after learning that the Elephants head coach from Japan, who was earlier credited with the team's finishing the second place in the season, had met with Chuang Hung-liang, an intermediary between the gambling syndicate and players.
Whether the coach can have his contract renewed is now in the hands of the team owner.
The fate of the Brother Elephants, presently Taiwan's most popular professional baseball team, will become clear next week, after 12 of its players have been implicated in the latest game-fixing scandal.
Concerned about the future of the Brother Elephants in the wake of the game-fixing scam, Sports Affairs Council Minister Tai Hsia-ling met with the team's general manager Hung.
'Despite the scandal, I remain confident in the strength of the Brother Elephants, and I encouraged Hung to continue operating the team,' Tai said of her meeting with Hung.
Noting that the team has been in operation for 25 years and has the largest number of fans of any of the professional league's four franchises, Tai said her council does not want to see the Elephants disbanded.
'I told Hung that many players are disciplined and focused and should not be forced to leave their beloved profession and team simply because of some players' alleged involvement in game-fixing,' Tai said.
Hung will decide on the Elephants' fate after he meets with Chao Shou-po, president of the CPBL next week when Chao returns home from an overseas visit.
Tai said the government will convene an inter-ministerial meeting next Tuesday to discuss issues regarding professional baseball's development.
'At the upcoming meeting, I will convey Hung's request that law enforcement authorities adopt preventive strategies to help resolve the gambling and game-fixing issues that have often cast a pall on our professional baseball development,' Tai said.
She added that criminal investigators and prosecutors should address the issues from a preventive perspective to avoid impeding the development of the pro game in Taiwan.
In case the Elephants' management eventually decides to disband the team, Tai said her council will help seek other corporations to sponsor a team in the league.
'Anyway, we will make every possible effort to keep the CPBL afloat,' Tai said.
Holding placards, some Elephants fans came out to gather outside the dormitory of players yesterday to show their strong support for the team and the players.
Hung vowed last year during a similar game-fixing scandal to disband his team if any of his players were involved in gambling and game fixing, but he now seems to be having second thoughts.
He was quoted by a local newspaper as saying that despite his pain over his players' betrayal of his trust, he could not ignore his team's social responsibility.
President Ma Ying-jeou, who now doubles as chairman of the Kuomintang, admonished KMT members of upholding integrity and cleanness.
When addressing a gathering of the candidates for the ruling party's Central Standing Committee, Ma used the tremendous damage inflicted by the latest baseball scam to the careers of the players and to the sport in his advice.
Lawmakers of both the KMT and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party promised to accelerate the review and legislation of new rules for heavier penalties, including a maximum sentence of 15 years plus hefty fines, for those convicted for manipulating athletic games for illegal financial gains.
Players involved will also face increased penalties after the new rules clear the Legislative Yuan.