Football: Eight charged over betting scam

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HONG KONG'S graftbusters charged eight people, including a police sergeant, yesterday with illegal soccer bookmaking in connection to an alleged match-fixing scam by local players.

The eight are alleged to have conspired in operating an illegal bookmaking centre covering both local and overseas soccer matches, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said in a statement.

They were due to appear in court last night on a total of five charges, including conspiracy to engage in illegal bookmaking, the ICAC said.

The police sergeant, Tse Ping-wang, 43, faced two charges of bribing police superintendents for tip-offs about police raids on bookmaking centres.

The illegal bookmaking case came to light when the anti-corruption watchdog was investigating an alleged match-fixing case, an ICAC spokeswoman said. Last month, five Hong Kong soccer players were charged with match-fixing, including the rigging of a World Cup qualifier.

The ICAC brought a total of 17 charges against the five men - Lee Wai- man and Lok Kar-win, both 25, Chan Chi-keung, 28, Wai Kwan-lung, 22 and Lau Chi-yuen, 21.

The trial of four of the players - Lee, Lok, Chan and Wai - will begin on 12 January. The trial of Lau will start next March.

Lee, Lok, Chan and Wai were accused of conspiring with jailed national striker, Chan Tsz-kong, to ensure Hong Kong lost by two goals to Thailand in a World Cup qualifying match on 9 March 1997, and win HK$200,000 (pounds 16,050) from bets placed with a bookmaker. Hong Kong lost the game 2-0.

Chan Tsz-kong was sentenced in July to 12 months' jail after being convicted of rigging the match against Thailand.

The Asian Football Confederation have decided to hold an emergency meeting next week to discuss a decision by Fifa, football's world governing body, to award just four places to the continent at the World Cup in 2002 - two of which will go to joint hosts Japan and South Korea.