Club hits Purton with huge fine
Australian jockey Zac Purton has been fined a record-equalling HK$300,000 for failing to reveal to stewards that he had been approached twice with offers of 'an arrangement' by a punter who has previously been jailed under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance.
Purton's fine equals that issued to Greg Childs after the 2000 Hong Kong Mile, when Sunline's rider was charged with 'engaging in conduct prejudicial to the good reputation of horse racing' for discussing tactics with another rider before the race.
Purton pleaded guilty to a breach of Rule of Racing 151 (13), that deals with a licensed person committing an improper practice for failing to report 'any event or circumstances which comes to his knowledge and which would constitute a contravention' of the rules.
In arriving at the HK$300,000 fine, stewards said that they took into account Purton's guilty plea and his full co-operation during the investigation, including giving evidence regarding former racing member Peter Fung Kwok-wa to the disciplinary committee last week, and the fact that there was no evidence Purton had entered or agreed to enter into any improper arrangement.
The matter goes back to November last year, when a member of the Jockey Club stable staff, unnamed in yesterday's release, reported an approach by Peter Fung's brother, Cosma Fung Hok-cheung, for information in return for the profits from bets placed on behalf of the staff member.
The staff member said he refused the offer and had not seen Cosma Fung, or Peter Fung, since but he also said that during the conversation, Cosma Fung mentioned two current jockeys, including Purton. Stewards have not named the second rider as they have no evidence that the jockey was associated with 'either Cosma or Peter Fung, or that he was involved in any conduct which would constitute a breach of the rules'.
Purton (pictured) said he had been approached twice by Cosma Fung last year to enter into a 'tips for bets' arrangement. He said had known Peter Fung in Sydney before coming to Hong Kong and went to meet him socially, not knowing Cosma Fung would be present. Purton refused Cosma Fung's offer of bets for tips, and told Peter that he was unhappy Cosma was there, knowing his background, and said he did not want to see Cosma again. The jockey said he considered disassociating himself from Peter Fung, too, but maintained contact as he was owed money he had loaned him for a business venture outside of horseracing. Purton denied the money was part of any betting arrangement.
Purton was contacted again by Peter Fung to meet for coffee in October last year, when Fung would introduce him to a horse owner. When Purton arrived, he was told the horse owner had left and they would have to go elsewhere to meet him, but Cosma Fung was the only person present when they arrived there. He again offered Purton a betting arrangement, which he refused. The jockey said he did not report the approaches as he felt it was best 'to just walk away'.
Cosma and Peter Fung failed to appear twice at stewards' inquiries in November and December, and were warned off in February. Last Tuesday, Peter Fung, a racing member of the club, also failed to appear at a disciplinary committee hearing and his membership was cancelled.
In 2007, Cosma Fung was jailed for 21 months after an ICAC sting with an undercover agent who, posing as a fellow punter, became acquainted with Fung.
Fung said Chris Munce, then a club jockey, would offer the undercover officer tips, the officer would place bets for Munce and pay him dividends from the winners, less the cost of losing tips.