Offered cash to rival player in exchange for chance to score or get a penalty kick
A football player from the mainland, Yu Yang, pleaded guilty in Kowloon City Court Friday to a bribery charge arising from an attempt he made to fix a match in the First Division Football League last year.
The 27-year-old former defender of the local Happy Valley football club admitted that he tried to bribe Fourway Rangers defender Jean Jacques Kilama before the match between the two clubs on October 3 last year. He asked the Cameroon-born player to let him score a goal or create an opportunity for a penalty kick in the match. He asked how much Kilama wanted, typing "how much" in English on a computer and using software to translate it into French.
Kilama refused. Fourway Rangers won the match 2-0 against Happy Valley.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) mounted an operation codenamed Monsoon Thursday, arresting five people. Yu was charged with one count of offering an advantage to an agent. The other four suspects were released on bail Thursday night, pending further enquiries.
Yu told the court Friday that he was told by a mainland sponsor of Happy Valley to bribe Kilama. He pledged full cooperation with the ICAC in its investigation.
In mitigation, his lawyer said Yu did not stand to gain from his action and performed the task because he believed he should obey the instruction of a sponsor. Yu said he deeply regretted his action, which will likely end his football career.
The case was adjourned to May 20, at the request of the ICAC to allow more time for the investigation.
Though the ICAC has not named the remaining four suspects, it's believed they were also football players of Fourway Rangers - two from the mainland and two locals.
In media interviews, Fourway Rangers director Philip Lee Fai-lap said that Yu made the offer to Kilama, declaring the Fourway Rangers would lose anyway, because four other players had already accepted bribes.
Lee said Kilama called him after Yu left and Lee alerted the Hong Kong Football Association, the organizer of the First Division matches. The match on October 3 in Sham Shui Po Sports Ground was closely watched by football association officials and recorded.
He said the four players named by Yu insisted they were innocent. Because the Fourway Rangers won, the club did not pursue the matter, as far as he knew. Lee said he didn't know how the ICAC became involved.
Although betting on local football matches has not been not popular in Hong Kong, underground betting on the mainland has gained traction because of the presence of mainland players. Wagers placed on one match amount to millions of yuan. Mainland companies have been exerting influence on clubs through sponsorship.
The bribery scandal, described by Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak as the "tip of the iceberg", prompted an outcry among local football fans. The sport which is struggling for funding and attention has suffered another blow, people lamented in online posts.
(HK Edition 05/08/2010 page1)