Vietnam tackles football graft

Eight players charged with match-fixing as officials vow to weed out corruption.

    The Asian Football Confederation says graft is
    causing untold damage to Asian football [EPA]

    Prosecutors say the eight footballers had accepted $31,000 to ensure favourites Vietnam beat Myanmar by only one goal. Vietnam won the match 1-0. National team striker Pham Van Quyen and five players from the under-23 squad have been charged with organising gambling, which carries a maximum jail term of 10 years.
     
    The five under-23 players in the dock, Le Bat Hieu, Huynh Quoc Anh, Chau Le Phuoc Vinh, Le Van Truong, and Tran Hai Lam, have been accused of taking bribes of $1,250 each.
     
    Le Quoc Vuong, the national team's deputy captain, and suspected middleman Truong Tan Hai, a former footballer, face charges of organising the fraud.
     
    Both face additional charges of gambling, which carries two- to seven-years jail terms.
     
    Investigators said they used players' mobile phone records to trace calls from Manila to Truong, the middleman, who was allegedly in contact with Ly Quoc Ky, a local betting kingpin who is being hunted by police.
     
    Football gambling is illegal but widespread in football-mad Vietnam where many fans place online bets with syndicates based inside the country or overseas.
     
    Betting scandal
     
    Last year, Vietnam was rocked by a scandal when government officials were caught betting millions of dollars of embezzled funds on European football matches.
     
    Mohammed Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation president, had told Vietnamese football authorities "to do everything possible to tackle" corruption because it was "causing untold damage to Asian football".
     
    The country's football chiefs have vowed to prevent a "corruption storm" from ruining the sport by launching a "clean hands" campaign in 2005 which led to the prosecution of dozens of players and referees.
     
    Hoang Chuyen Can of the Vietnamese Football Federation said that "in principle, one has to pay for his mistakes" but added that the players in question had made "a considerable contribution to Vietnamese football".
     
    "Vietnam is building professional football. We should give them the chance to correct their mistakes... I hope they will receive an appropriate verdict and get a chance to return to football."
     
    In the recent Asean Football Federation Championship, Vietnam sent an anti-corruption police officer along with its team to help players steer clear of match-fixing and bribery.
     
    The government is considering a proposal to legalise football betting and use the estimated revenues worth $1 bn a year for the state budget.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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