ICAC’s operation ‘Green Grass”: Four footballers and betting agent charged for bribery over match-fixing and illegal gambling

2024-2-15

Following ICAC’s operation “Green Grass” taken in May last year, neutralising a corruption syndicate in connection with football match-fixing and illegal gambling, the Commission charged three football players and a betting agent this morning (February 15) for allegedly bribing football players to rig the results of a number of matches involving three local football clubs participating in the Hong Kong Premier League (HK Premier League) and the First Division of Hong Kong (HK First Division) in two seasons between 2021 and 2023 so as to facilitate syndicate members to profit from illegal gambling.

The four defendants will be brought to the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts this afternoon for mention. As the relevant corruption investigation is continuing, the ICAC does not rule out further law enforcement actions.

Fok Brian, 29, who had played for Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC) and Happy Valley Athletic Association (HVAA) as defender, faces three counts of offering an advantage to an agent, contrary to Section 9(2)(a) of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO). Fok and three co-defendants also face two counts of conspiracy to cheat at gambling, contrary to Section 16(1)(a) of the Gambling Ordinance and Section 159A of the Crimes Ordinance.

The three co-defendants are Luciano Silva Da Silva, 36, defender of Central and Western District Recreation and Sports Association (C&W); To Chun-kiu, 29, then goal keeper of Sham Shui Po Sports Association (SSP) and Waheed Mohammad, 27, betting agent.


2021/2022 HK Premier League – bribes-for-match-fixing


Between September 2021 and January 2022, Fok played for HKFC, which participated in the HK Premier League organised by the Football Association of Hong Kong, China (HK Football Association).

In late October 2021, Fok allegedly offered $10,000 in bribe per match to a teammate, a midfielder of HKFC, as an inducement for fixing or attempting to fix the results of the football matches in the 2021/2022 season involving HKFC.

It is also alleged that Fok respectively offered $30,000 and $10,000 to the midfielder and another midfielder of HKFC in early November 2021 as inducements for the two teammates to fix or attempt to fix the result of the football match between HKFC and Hong Kong Rangers Football Club (also known as Biu Chun Rangers) on November 7, 2021.

ICAC investigation revealed that the two midfielders of HKFC rejected Fok’s offers and reported the incidents to HKFC.


2022/2023 HK First Division – conspiracy to cheat at gambling


Fok played for HVAA competing in the HK First Division in the 2022/2023 season while Silva Da Silva was a football player of C&W in the same division. At the material time, To was the goal keeper of SSP competing in the HK Premier League. To and Mohammad were also betting agents of illegal gambling websites.

Between August 2022 and April 2023, the four defendants allegedly conspired together with another betting agent to win money in gambling by causing HVAA to lose matches or manipulating the number of goals or corner kicks of HVAA by fraud.

It is also alleged that between August 2022 and May 2023, Fok, Silva Da Silva and Mohammad conspired together with the betting agent to win money in gambling by manipulating the number of goals or corner kicks of C&W by fraud.

ICAC enquiries revealed that the four defendants placed bets in a total of over 30 matches participated by HVAA and C&W in the 2022/2023 season during which Fok had given live signals at matches to the betting agents concerned for placing bets.

HK Football Association and all football clubs involved have rendered full assistance to the ICAC during its investigation into the case.

The ICAC has always strived to maintain local sports integrity through a three-pronged approach of law enforcement, prevention and education. In early 2024, the ICAC provided corruption prevention training to managerial staff from more than 40 National Sports Associations (NSAs) through the first Integrity Leadership Training for NSAs which helped strengthen governance of the sports sector.

On corruption prevention in the football sector, the ICAC has maintained close liaison with the HK Football Association and has reviewed the code of ethics and relevant guidelines for the latter twice. In light of the operation “Green Grass”, the ICAC is reviewing corruption prone areas of the HK Football Association to further enhance the integrity management and corruption prevention capabilities of the football sector.

In recent years, the ICAC has organised anti-bribery talks for staff of the HK Football Association and stakeholders of football matches at different divisions, including player and managerial staff of clubs, enhancing their understanding on the POBO, handling of conflict of interest and the importance of fair competition.
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