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Man pleads not guilty in sexual bribes case

By Teo Jion Chun

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A Singapore businessman accused of bribing three Lebanese soccer match officials with prostitutes has been released on bail after he entered a not guilty plea in court on Tuesday.

Businessman Eric Ding Si Yang, who once worked for the local New Paper tabloid as a football tipster, will contest the three corruption charges that had been filed against him, his lawyer Thong Chee Kun told reporters.

Bail was set at S$150,000 ($121,000) and Ding will appear in court again on April 18.

Ding left court on Tuesday wearing sunglasses and a shiny long sleeved green t-shirt accompanied by six men and a woman. He shook hands with a reporter from the New Paper before leaving in a black car.

Ding's release on bail comes one day before a hearing in which FIFA-recognized referee Ali Sabbagh and assistants Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb are expected to enter their pleas and request bail. The Lebanese officials each face one charge of "corruptly receiving gratification... to fix a football match."

The three officials had arrived in Singapore last week to take charge of the AFC Cup match between local side Tampines Rovers and East Bengal of India, but were hastily replaced hours before kick off by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

They are currently being held in separate cells, with the prosecution arguing against bail at an earlier hearing on Friday for fear they were part of a syndicated operation.

The officials face a maximum fine of S$100,000 and a five-year prison term if found guilty. Ding faces the same punishment on each charge.

(Writing by Kevin Lim. Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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