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Former baseball players could exchange jailtime for fines

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Taiwan High Court yesterday handed down final verdicts to three former baseball stars, with Chen Chih-yuan (陳致遠) receiving six months in prison, Chang Chih-chia (張誌家) four months in prison, and Tsai Fong-an (蔡豐安) six months in prison for game-fixing, but said the aforementioned sentences may be commuted to fines.

The game-fixing scandal broke after the 20th championship game in October 2009. A total of 44 baseball players, including star players Chen, Chang, Tsai, Tsao Chin-hui (曹錦輝), and former player Yang Po-jen (楊博任), were allegedly involved in the scandal.

According to prosecutors, the players allegedly received money from suspect Tsai Cheng-yi (蔡政宜) — a member of an underground bookmaking syndicate that allegedly placed bets on professional baseball games — and manipulated the outcome of the games to help the syndicate cash in on illicit bets.

Chen, Tsai Fong-an, Chang, Yang and former Tainan Council Speaker Wu Chien-pao (吳健保) were indicted by prosecutors on charges of fraud in 2010. Wu was accused of threatening the players to manipulate the games. Tsao was not indicted by prosecutors.

The New Taipei District Court in June 2011 sentenced a total of 23 defendants to prison terms between one month and 15 days to seven years in jail. Wu was sentenced to seven years. The court ruled Chen to serve two years and six months in prison, and Chang two years and two months.

The high court yesterday lowered the sentences for Chen, Chang and Tsai Cheng-yi and allowed the said defendants to pay fines instead of serving their sentences. Wu's prison term was also cut down from seven years to three years and two months, the high court said, noting that, Wu's sentence cannot be commuted to a fine.

The high court said Tsai Cheng-yi and Wu are believed to be the masterminds behind the game-fixing, noting that it believes some of the players “passively” cooperated with Tsai and Wu.

The Taiwan High Court further explained its relatively light ruling, saying that as the game-fixing incident occurred in 2006 and came to light in 2009, the case does not fall under the 2010 Sports Lottery Management Act, which sets a heavier punishment for violators.

Sports Administration Director-General Ho Jow-fei (何卓飛) yesterday commented on the ruling by saying that the government should draft a more efficient strategy to prevent game-fixing. Ho said that in order to improve Taiwan's baseball environment, his administration recently submitted a proposal concerning this to the Executive Yuan for deliberation.

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