SINGAPORE (AP) — One of the three football officials facing match-fixing related charges was taken to a hospital with an undisclosed illness while the other two appeared in a Singapore court Friday and entered no pleas.

Referee Ali Sabbagh and assistant referees Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb, all from Lebanon, were charged with "corruptly receiving gratification in the form of free sexual service" by Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.

The bureau said the men accepted "free sexual service" in return for attempting to fix an Asian Football Confederation Cup match.

On Friday, Eid was admitted to Singapore General Hospital after complaining of being ill. He is expected to appear in court on Monday.

All three were remanded in custody and a bail hearing will be held next Wednesday.

If convicted, each could be jailed for up to five years or fined a maximum of 100,000 Singapore dollars ($80,500), or both.

The anti-corruption agency said it launched an investigation after receiving information of match-fixing involving a game between Singapore club Tampines Rovers and East Bengal of India on Wednesday. Replacement officials were called in for the match, and East Bengal won 4-2.

The 33-year-old Sabbagh is a FIFA-accredited referee who has officiated some 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

Vice-counsel Imad Nasr of the Lebanese consulate said in court Friday that the Lebanese Football Association had engaged defense counsel Gary Leonard Low to represent the men.

Speaking in Arabic through a court translator, assistant referee Taleb initially declined to be represented by a lawyer. Taleb, who was wearing a light blue shirt and in handcuffs, said he did not wish to use legal representation if it was assigned by the Lebanese government, but gave no reason for his comment.

However, after speaking to Low and Nasr, Taleb agreed to be represented by Low.

An 18-month review by Europol recently revealed that a Singapore-based crime syndicate has been involved in fixing football matches around the world, including World Cup qualifiers and Champions League match.

 

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