Referees dropped over Singapore match-fixing fears

AP, Wednesday 3 Apr 2013

Three Lebanese officials dropped from match, FAS says it has zero tolerance of match-fixing

Three Lebanese soccer officials have been dropped from refereeing an AFC Cup match in Singapore and are helping the country's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) with their enquiries, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said on Wednesday.

Ali Sabbagh and assistant referees Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb were taken to the CPIB early on Wednesday, the FAS said, and replacement officials would take charge of the match between Tampines Rovers and East Bengal of India later in the day.

"Singapore and FAS have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to match-fixing and football corruption," the FAS said in a statement released shortly before the match was due to kick-off.

"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 minimising the possibility of such activities taking place within the local football scene."

The FAS said it had contacted the Asian Football Confederation immediately and replacement officials were sent to cover the match in the region's second-tier international club tournament.

The AFC, contacted by Reuters, said it would not comment on the situation.

The CPIB, a government law-enforcement body that is separate from the regular police, confirmed it had spoken with the three officials.

"We adopt a zero tolerance approach towards corruption, and match-fixing of any form is not condoned in Singapore," the body said in an email to Reuters.

A CPIB spokesman declined to comment when asked if the three officials were still being questioned or if their passports had been impounded.

In February, European anti-crime agency Europol said hundreds of soccer matches were fixed in a global betting scam run from Singapore.

It identified some 680 suspicious matches, including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championship, and for Europe's Champions League.

The FAS said it had been praised for its efforts in tackling matchfixing.

"The FAS is pleased to note that several organisations, including the AFC and Interpol, have commended us for our commitment and efficiency in fighting matchfixing, which has become a global scourge," it said.

"Going forward, we will continue to participate in ongoing international efforts to combat this problem, from and within the game."

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