Two former Happy Valley players and a former team official allegedly involved in match-fixing all pleaded not guilty in Eastern Court yesterday.
Fan Weijun, 35, a former assistant coach and player from the mainland, and Sasa Mus, 27, a former player from Croatia, are charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud.
The team's former deputy team manager Hinson Leung, 26, faces one count of betting with a bookmaker, contrary to Section 8 of the Gambling Ordinance. Leung allegedly placed bets through a bookmaking site on the First Division match between Happy Valley and Sun Hei on January 5, which his team lost 5-0.
The charge was read to Mus in Croatian, and to Fan in Putonghua. Mus is alleged to have conspired with Leung and others to defraud the club and the Hong Kong Football Association by "dishonestly not playing to his best abilities" in a First Division match against Royal Southern on November 30 last year, when Happy Valley lost 4-2.
Fan faced the same charge, which involves a Senior Shield match against Sun Pegasus on December 8 last year. In that game, Happy Valley lost 1-0.
Numerous witnesses are expected to be called. Among them are the association's chief executive Mark Sutcliffe and Happy Valley Athletic Association chairman Pui Kwan-kei.
The prosecution demanded that travel restrictions be placed on the two players due to the serious nature of the offence.
But defence counsel Katherine Lam Kit-yin, for Mus, said: "My client has difficulties finding a job in Hong Kong ... He would like to return to his home country to find a job."
Due to the six-month investigation, Lam said Mus was facing a "severe financial crisis".
Fan's defence lawyer Peter Cheung Bing-keung said a travel ban would prevent Fan from seeing his wife in Qingdao and his elderly parents, who live in Shanghai and are in poor health.
Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai decided not to lift the ban, however.
Although all the charges are linked to the same soccer club, the prosecutor said the three cases had to be handled separately because the evidence presented would be different.
Mus and Leung will return to Eastern Court on August 1 for a pre-trial review. Fan's review will take place three days later.