May 17, 2023
HONG KONG – Hong Kong anti-corruption agency has arrested 23 people, including one soccer coach and 11 players, for their alleged connections with a match-fixing investigation.
The probe is the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s largest operation in recent years to crack down on such illegal gambling.
The case was uncovered after a yearlong investigation, with the participation of nearly 100 investigators. ICAC also arrested a number of bookmakers during the operation
The detainees, aged from 25 to 36 years old, are suspected of manipulating football matches and accepting bribes from such activities, ICAC said at a media briefing on Tuesday.
ICAC said the investigation involves a team from Hong Kong’s first-division football league and believes the 23 suspects arrested are members of a match-fixing syndicate that allegedly profited from a massive game-rigging operation during the 2022-23 season.
Local media reported that the club involved in the scandal is Happy Valley, a renowned local team.
The arrested people are suspected to have manipulated the outcome of matches through passive play, ICAC said. Some members of the syndicate would give instructions to players on the sidelines with signals or exaggerated body language. By using such tricks, the players allegedly could earn thousands of Hong Kong dollars per match, the Commission added.
By rigging the results, the syndicate could bet on the matches to make profits. ICAC also found some players that allegedly participated in the fraud also bet on the manipulated games themselves. The team played 26 matches during the 2022-23 season, with 13 losses and five draws.
The case was uncovered after a yearlong investigation, with the participation of nearly 100 investigators. ICAC also arrested a number of bookmakers during the operation.
ICAC also said it could not rule out that the club’s opponents were also involved in the gambling. As for the club’s management, ICAC said there is evidence that it was also a victim of the fraud.
Pui Kwan-kay, chairman of the Football Association of Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday emphasized the association’s “zero-tolerance” toward match-fixing. Pui also mentioned that in some previous cases, only players were convicted, while the ringleaders behind the scene have avoided justice and continued to manipulate matches. He said he hopes ICAC’s investigation can help catch the masterminds this time.