The Corrupt Practices Investigations Bureau in Singapore has arrested three Lebanese match officials just hours before an AFC Cup match between Indian giants East Bengal and Singaporean side Tampines Rovers, according to reports today.
Lebanese match officials Ali Sabbagh, Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb, who were supposed to officiate the AFC Cup tie between Tampines and East Bengal FC at Jalan Besar Stadium this evening were taken into custody for investigations. The Football Association of Singapore has confirmed this.
It is not clear why the Lebanese officials have been arrested. Neither the CPIB nor the FAS said if they were booked on suspicion of match fixing or any other football-related incident.
CPIB officers turned up at the hotel where the match officials were residing. The Lebanese officials were in Singapore since Tuesday and they were also present during Tuesday's pre-match briefing.
A new set of match officials from Malaysia and Thailand have been brought in to officiate the Group H match - a must-win game for Tampines Rovers to progress into the next round.
Asia, particularly Singapore, has been in the focus after damning details about soccer match fixing emerged earlier this year. Interpol findings indicate that an international soccer match-fixing operation was based in Singapore, a city known for its order.
Soccer is Southeast Asia's most popular sport in both viewership and gambling. According to Europol, 680 games between 2008 and 2011 were deemed suspicious, including 150 international matches in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. A Singaporean named Dan Tan, a key suspect, was arrested in February for investigations. Reportedly, 425 players and match officials are involved in match-fixing.
Singapore legalized gambling in local matches in 1999. The country legalized gambling on international matches played locally in 2002. Given the status of the East Bengal versus Tampines game, it is a hot one for gamblers.