China jails former football officials in graft scandal

18 February 2012 05:46

A Chinese court sentenced two top former Football Association officials to more than a decade in jail, state media said, in a graft scandal that brought the football league to its knees.

Ex-deputy chief Yang Yimin and former top head referee Zhang Jianqiang were the first to learn their fate Saturday among 39 officials awaiting sentencing in the match-fixing and gambling scandal exposed over two years ago.

Yang was convicted of accepting bribes worth 1.25 million yuan ($200,000) from about 20 clubs to fix fitness test results and sentenced to 10 and a half years, the state Xinhua news agency said.

Zhang, the former director of the association's referee committee, received a 12-year term for taking bribes worth a total of 2.73 million yuan on 24 occasions.

Gambling, match-fixing, crooked referees and poor performances by the national team have made the sport the laughing stock of increasingly indifferent Chinese fans, and a matter of state concern.

The jail terms come after four top referees -- including China's "Golden Whistle" Lu Jun, who officiated at the 2000 Olympic Games and the 2002 World Cup -- were given up to seven-year jail terms on Thursday.

The scandal also brought down top Chinese Football Association heads Nan Yong and his successor Xie Yalong.

Yang, who was also fined 200,000 yuan, told the court that he would not appeal his sentence.

"The punishment isn't harsh," said Yang's attorney Wang Shujing, according to Xinhua. "Yang took bribes as a government official and the harshest punishment for taking bribes as a public servant could be the death penalty."

Zhang, who admitted to taking bribes, was fined 250,000 yuan. He also told the court he would not appeal the sentence and fine.

Source: AFP