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[SINGAPORE] Singapore's High Court on Friday raised to five years the jail sentence imposed on a businessman who provided prostitutes to Lebanese football referees in a bid to influence international matches.
Justice Chan Seng Onn said the three-year jail term handed to local nightclub owner Eric Ding last year by a lower court was "manifestly inadequate", and issued a warning against sports-rigging syndicates using Singapore as a base.
Ding, 32, was found guilty of corruption in July for having bribed three Lebanese referees with the services of prostitutes before an Asian Football Confederation Cup match in 2013.
The three officials - referee Ali Sabbagh and assistant referees Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb - were arrested before they could officiate the match between Singapore-based club Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal.
All three subsequently pleaded guilty to corruption. Sabbagh was jailed for six months while Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb served three-month sentences.
The High Court judge said he accepted the argument by state prosecutors "that the syndicate that Ding was involved in was operating on a large scale".
"As Ding appears to be a significant player fairly high up in the echelons of the syndicate with the ability to make decisions on who to bribe, the manner of bribery and what games are to be selected for match-fixing, his sentence must be increased appropriately," the judge said.
Justice Chan said the benchmarks for jail terms imposed on match-fixers must be increased from 18 months, the highest sentence for one charge, as the crime is becoming harder to detect, easier to commit thanks to technology, and more lucrative.
Those convicted of fixing matches at the World Cup level should get 3.5 years for each charge and fixing at the local league level should earn 1.5 years in jail, Chan said.
Ding's case is the latest in Singapore's long history of match-fixing scandals, which have tarnished the city-state's reputation for clean government and low crime.
In September, police detained 14 people believed to be members of a global match-fixing syndicate, including the suspected mastermind Dan Tan.
Tan, also known as Tan Seet Eng, is currently being held under a law that allows for indefinite detention, which is typically used against key gangsters.
Experts have said that easy international transport, a passport accepted around the world and fluency in English and Mandarin have helped Singaporean fixers spread their influence with the support of external investors, most believed to be from China.