A former Hong Kong footballer of the year is facing jail as he admitted on Thursday that he pocketed HK$10,000 after fixing two local league reserve matches in 2016.
The District Court heard that Lee Wai-lim, who won the prestigious award in 2009, coached players of Hong Kong Pegasus Football Club, which he was then a member of, to score goals and lose the game in their matches against Biu Chun Rangers Football Club.
Lee, 36, did this after receiving instructions from a player of Biu Chun Rangers, with whom he had placed bets.
Former Hong Kong footballer of the year will admit match-fixing, court told
Prosecutors also revealed that Pegasus players were occasionally asked to follow a bookmaker’s instructions to fix the result of certain matches in exchange for monetary reward, or they would have to compensate the bookmaker when they failed to do so.
That was despite all players having agreed to the Hong Kong Football Association’s Code of Ethics, which prohibits any match-fixing activity and match manipulation as well as the solicitation or acceptance of any advantage for such purposes.
Lee, who had been remanded in jail for close to six months, on Thursday pleaded guilty to one count of being an agent accepting an advantage, and another of conspiracy to defraud. A third charge of conspiracy to defraud, which Lee denied, was not pursued by prosecutors on Thursday.
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He was freed on HK$20,000 bail pending a sentence to be hand down after the end of trial, with the condition that he remain in Hong Kong and report to police once a week.
Lee was one of five former Pegasus players charged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption last year in relation to several alleged conspiracies that they had fixed three matches while offering and accepting bribes totalling HK$60,000.
The matches were part of the Reserve Division League organised by the football association, with results having no bearing on the respective teams’ position and points in the city’s Premier League.
But Pegasus’ chairwoman Canny Leung Chi-shan and association chairman Mark Sutcliffe both noted that match fixing or manipulation would adversely affect their respective image, sponsorship and income, and put their economic interests at risk.
District judge Edmond Lee Chun-man warned: “Imprisonment seems inevitable, and [the sentence] will not be a short one.”
The court heard that Lee Wai-lim was approached by Biu Chun Rangers’ then defender Liu Songwei before a game between the two clubs at Shek Kip Mei Park on March 23, 2016. Lee, in his capacity as Pegasus’ coach, then instructed his player Wong Wai to refrain from scoring in the first 15 minutes but aim for three goals in the second half of the match. Pegasus lost 2-6.
Lee and two players – Michael Cheng Lai-hin and Lee Ka-ho – were rewarded HK$20,000 each. Another HK$10,000 was each given to a third player Chan Pak-hang and Wong, who later told investigators that he did not follow instructions.
Similar negotiations took place before another game on April 13, during which Lee Wai-lim signalled Wong to lose the match – by putting on the hood of his jacket – for a reward Wong understood to be HK$15,000. But to Lee’s dismay, his team won 1-0.
After the match, Liu told him that he was in trouble because the results did not follow the plan. As Liu issued repeated demands for compensation, Lee Wai-lim – whom prosecutors said was in a “terrified” state for failing to fix the match results – collected HK$10,000 each from Wong, Cheng and Chan. He also told Wong that he would not engage in match fixing anymore.
Lee Wai-lim was arrested months later on October 4.
His co-defendants Kwok Kin-pong, 30, Cheng, 31, Chan, 24, and Lee Ka-ho, 24, have all pleaded not guilty to similar charges of conspiracy to defraud, offering an advantage to an agent and agent accepting an advantage.
Their trial will begin on Friday.