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Crime in Hong Kong

Former Hong Kong footballer of the year in match-fixing case ‘accepts responsibility for his wrongs’

Court hears how Lee Wai-lim – ‘a village boy from Sha Tau Kok’ who rose to the top – has been an inspiration to many youngsters in the city

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 April, 2018, 7:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 April, 2018, 7:00am

A former Hong Kong footballer of the year who pleaded guilty to charges related to match-fixing accepts responsibility for the “wrongs” he has done, a court was told on Friday.

Lee Wai-lim, 36, was among five former Pegasus soccer players charged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) last year over accusations that they fixed three matches in 2016 while offering and accepting bribes totalling HK$60,000 (US$7,700).

The four others – Kwok Kin-pong, 31, Michael Cheng Lai-hin, 32, Chan Pak-hang, 25, and Lee Ka-ho, 24 – were cleared by the District Court on Thursday.

Lee Wai-lim in January pleaded guilty to one count of being an agent accepting an advantage, and another of conspiracy to defraud.

During mitigation in the District Court in Wan Chai on Friday, the player’s barrister, Steven Liu, said his client was remorseful and accepted responsibility.

“[Lee] said he remains calm and will bear responsibility for the wrongs he has done,” Liu said, adding that his client was not bothered by the outcome of the others’ trial.

“He has been filled with remorse.”

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Dozens of mitigation letters, including from Lee himself, his family members and people from the soccer world, were submitted to the court. Among them was one from a former sports reporter.

The reporter, who has known Lee since 2008, wrote that she gave Lee the nickname “Prince Wai-lim”.

She described Lee as an inspiration to many youngsters, as the “village boy from Sha Tau Kok” had risen to become Hong Kong footballer of the year.

She said she was disappointed he had ruined his career because of a wrong decision, but glad to know he was “willing to bear his wrongs and was not evading his responsibility”.

Sitting in the dock, Lee wiped away tears as his barrister read out parts of the letter.

“He is still ‘Prince Wai-lim’ after bearing all these responsibilities,” Liu said, adding that many of the soccer player’s relatives and friends were in court to support him.

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The barrister also revealed that Lee, who has a three-year-old son, was now working as an apprentice electrician because he believed it would be hard for him to remain in the game.

Lee, who was originally due to be sentenced on Friday, must wait to learn his fate. District Judge Edmond Lee Chun-man adjourned sentencing to May 4 for a report on whether Lee would be suitable for a community service order.

The judge said other penalties were being considered as Lee had previously been remanded in custody for almost six months.

Meanwhile, Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak called the match-fixing “an individual case” but admitted it might affect the reputation of Hong Kong soccer.

Leung said the association had been working with the ICAC to educate players on the regulations.

“We have been doing as much education as possible,” he said. “Many clubs also send people to monitor each game.”

Additional reporting by Shirley Zhao