Had no knowledge of sex-bribe allegations: East Bengal

Kolkata, April 5 (IANS) City soccer giants East Bengal Friday said it had no knowledge of the sex bribe allegation against three Lebanese match officials before, during and just after their AFC Cup match in Singapore against Tampines Rovers.

A day after the three officials – referee Ali Sabbagh and assistant referees Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb – were charged in a Singapore court under the Prevention of Corruption Act, a senior East Bengal official said: “The entire matter is irrelevant to the result of the game. We had no knowledge of any such allegations before, during and after the game”.

East Bengal had won Wednesday’s tie 4-2.

“We were only told couple of hours before the game by the match commissioner that the match officials have been changed and that officials from Thailand and Malaysia will supervise due to some legal proceedings against the three Lebanese. Nothing more.

“This did not have any repercussions on us as we were only concerned with playing the game,” East Bengal Assistant General Secretary Shanti Ranjan Dasgupta told IANS.

The official said Sabbagh had officiated in a match against East Bengal a year back in the AFC Cup. “He had then given two penalties against us.”

“We don’t even have a peripheral knowledge about the entire matter. These things happen in fully professional systems, where we are only trying to move from amateurism to professionalism,” he said.

Hours before Wednesday’s game, the three match officials were taken into custody by Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau(CPIB) and officially charged with one count of corruption each.

According to the CPIB, the three had allegedly received bribes in the form of free sexual services at a hotel on the match day.

The cases for Sabbagh and Taleb will be heard April 10. Ali Eid was admitted to Singapore General Hospital after falling ill and will be heard in court April 8.

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