2 Hungarians convicted of attempted match-fixing
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — An investigation by Hungarian authorities into corruption in football has led to its first convictions, while the trial continued on Friday of a Singaporean businessman accused of being the head of a global match-rigging syndicate.
A Hungarian player and a former referee have been found guilty of trying to fix a local under-19 match in 2010. Their convictions are the first since inquiries that have led to some 50 people being charged got underway in 2009.
According to Thursday’s decision by a Budapest court, Csaba Ponczok, playing for Videoton-Puskas Akademia, tried to bribe the goalkeeper of visiting Ferencvaros to allow at least four goals. The goalkeeper later reported the match-fixing attempt, while the home team won 1-0.
Janos Csak, a former referee, was fined 450,000 forints ($1,850) for his involvement in the bribery attempt.
Csak is also a defendant in another match-fixing case in Hungary, where the main defendant of 12 on trial is Tan Seet Eng, a Singaporean also known as Dan Tan, the alleged head of a crime syndicate suspected of rigging matches across the world. The case got underway in January.
Eng is being tried in absentia and will present his testimony to the court in writing, his Hungarian lawyer Peter Zamecsnik said Friday.
Prosecutors said they believe the current case is the first football corruption trial in which Eng, who was arrested last year in Singapore along with several others believed to be involved in match-fixing, is a defendant.
The other defendants in the trial include Hungarian players, coaches and referees.
Testifying at Friday’s court session was Wilson Raj Perumal, also from Singapore and a former member of Eng’s syndicate. He was arrested in Finland in 2011, served a year in prison after a match-fixing conviction and was later extradited to Hungary, where he now lives.
He has provided information about match-fixing activities in several countries and is a witness for the prosecution.
Perumal, speaking through an interpreter, was asked by the judge to explain the basics of the syndicate’s operations but the attempt was mostly thwarted by confusion over betting terminology and the lack of a projector to show the court a diagram of match-fixing schemes.
One of the matches drawing attention from the judge on Friday was a Dec. 2010 under-20 friendly match between Argentina and Bolivia. Hungarian referee Kolos Lengyel, after disallowing an apparently valid Argentina goal in the 76th minute, gave Argentina a penalty kick over 12 minutes into injury time. The hosts converted the penalty, winning 1-0.
Lengyel is also a witness for the prosecution and is expected to testify next week.