Soccer head stands trial for bribery of HK$1.8m

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2012, 12:00am

Former vice-chairman of the Chinese Football Association (CFA) Nan Yong stood trial in the Tieling Intermediate People's Court in Liaoning province yesterday on 17 charges of taking bribes worth 1.48 million yuan (HK$1.82 million), one day after his predecessor Xie Yalong was in court on similar charges.

Four former national squad players and the head of the referees committee also went on trial yesterday.

Nan and Xie, both former vice-chairmen of CFA, are the highest-ranking officials implicated in a sweeping national crackdown on corruption, which has brought down about 50 soccer officials, referees and players. CFA is an official body overlooking the development of the soccer sector.

Prosecutors say once-superstar players - Qi Hong, Shen Si, Li Ming and Jiang Jin - received eight million yuan in bribes in 2003 to fix a league match in which their team, Shanghai Guoji, lost 2-1 to Tianjin Teda. The result helped their rival, Shanghai Shenhua, get the league title.

Former head of the CFA's referees committee Li Dongsheng faces charges of taking bribes of more than 790,000 yuan and of embezzling 60,000 yuan.

However, Li's lawyer told mainland media that the figure was inaccurate, and he questioned the methods used to extract his client's confession.

'They used a special approach,' the lawyer said about the interrogation, without elaborating.

On Tuesday, Xie's lawyer said that his client was subjected to various forms of torture, including electric shock, after being taken into custody in September 2010.

Nan, 50, who was in charge of all the men's national teams and domestic leagues, was arrested in 2010 on charges of accepting money to bribe referees in the country's top league. He had earlier admitted to selling spots on the national team to players for 100,000 yuan when he was chef de mission of China's World Cup squad in 2002, when he led the team to its only World Cup finals.

Wu Celi , co-writer of Inside Chinese Soccer, said yesterday: 'In the general environment of Chinese soccer, nearly everyone takes bribes. If you don't do this, you look stupid and silly.

'The corruption in soccer mirrors the general corruption problems elsewhere in China.'

Two of Nan's colleagues, former deputy head of the CFA Yang Yimin and ex-director of the CFA's referee committee Zhang Jianqiang, were also arrested in 2010, and both were sentenced in February. Yang received 10 1/2 years in jail and was fined 200,000 yuan for accepting 1.25 million yuan in bribes and for match-fixing, while Zhang received a 12-year sentence.

The ongoing crackdown on soccer corruption has garnered increasing support from Chinese leaders. In July, Vice-President Xi Jinping publicly lent his weight to the crackdown by telling Korean politicians that he hoped China would win the World Cup one day. The remark was widely seen as a signal that the government would no longer tolerate the rampant corruption long blamed for the poor performance of Chinese teams in international matches.