3 players, 1 middleman, charged over match-fixing


Players Luciano, Brian Fok, and To Chun-kiu, and a betting agent have been charged by the ICAC for illegal gambling and bribery over match-fixing. The first hearing was held Thursday before the judge adjourned the case until 27 June.

The ICAC have laid their first criminal charges since announcing ‘Green Grass’ – an operation aimed at prosecuting match-fixing within Hong Kong football. The anti-corruption body had previously announced in May 2023 that they had detained 23 individuals, including 12 players and coaches, for questioning.

Four individuals – including former Premier League players, Luciano, Brian Fok, and To Chun-kiu, and betting agent Waheed Mohammed – have been charged with two counts each of conspiracy to cheat at gambling. Fok also faces three additional counts of offering an advantage to an agent.

It is alleged that, between 18 August 2022 and 30 April 2023, the four men conspired together with another betting agent to manipulate the results of Happy Valley matches. The four co-defendants would bet on the club to lose matches and concede a certain number of corner kicks, then develop schemes for the team to achieve the desired result.

Between 18 August 2022 and 7 May 2023, the co-defendants – minus To – are alleged to have also manipulated the number of goals and corners conceded by Central & Western.

In all, the ICAC have alleged that the four men placed bets on over 30 matches between the two clubs in the 2022-23 season.

Happy Valley finished 11th in the First Division last season, conceding 84 goals – second worst in the league. Central & Western were champions of the First Division, conceding a league low 21 goals.

The four men were arraigned at the Eastern Magistrates’ Court on Thursday afternoon, though they were not required to enter a plea. Fok was released on bail of $20,000, while the three others posted bail of $10,000 – although Mohammed was given until 27 February to pay.

The judge ordered the four co-defendants to hand in their travel documents over the bail period and instructed them not to leave Hong Kong or to contact any of the prosecution’s witnesses.

Brian Fok (Credit: Davidwhy)

In terms of legal jeopardy, Fok appears to be in the most severe legal quagmire of the four accused. He faces five charges in total due to issues stemming from the 2021-22 season when he was a member of HKFC.

The ICAC are alleging that on 27 October 2021, Fok offered his then-teammate, Jean Maciel, a bribe of $10,000 to manipulate the result of the team’s upcoming match against Rangers on 7 November. After Maciel refused, Fok increased his price to $30,000 on 2 November.

Two days later, on 4 November, Fok offered a $10,000 bribe to another teammate, Marcus McMillan. Both Maciel and McMillan refused his offers and reported the incidents to the club hierarchy.

HKFC would go on the lose the match 3-2.

According to historical records, Fok played the first five matches of the season for HKFC, but did not make another appearance after 17 October 2021 due to a knee injury. He was released by the club during the winter transfer window while the season was suspended due to the pandemic.

In the 2022-23 season, Fok joined Happy Valley where the illegal activities continued. The ICAC portrayed the defender as a willing and active participant, describing in their allegations how he gave live signals to the betting agents concerned during Valley matches on which way they should bet.

To Chun-kiu (Credit: Alan Man Photography)

Of the players involved, all three have played for Happy Valley at some point in their careers, though they have never been on the same club together. Luciano and To were teammates at Valley between 2019 and 2021, and were famously owed arrears by the club’s former boss Chen Zhishi.

After Valley self-relegated in 2021, To joined HKFC where he became teammates with Fok. However, there is no evidence that the goalkeeper tried to manipulate matches while at the club.

To would move onto Sham Shui Po in 2022, but was released by the club mid-way through the season. In March 2023, he made the stunning move to Japanese fourth division club Suzuka Point Getters – now known as Athletic Suzuka Club – where he was named to the matchday squad only once all season.

He was released by the club at the end of the season and had recently joined First Division club Sai Kung.

Luciano (Credit: Central & Western)

Luciano, on the other hand, played an additional season in the Premier League after leaving Valley. But when football returned after the pandemic, he chose to drop down the First Division in 2022.

The Brazilian central defender instantly became a key part of Central & Western’s squad that won the second-tier league title, starting all but one of the district team’s 26 matches. This season, he has played every minute of the season for the club but that will soon change.

In response to the allegations against Luciano, Central & Western posted a statement on their Facebook page late Thursday night saying that they will not comment on the merits of his case. However, in the interests of maintaining public confidence in local competitions, they stated that the player would not train or play for the club again until the legal proceedings against him are resolved.

Less is known about Mohammed, who is 27, and told the court that he is unemployed.

Waheed Mohammad (Credit: inmediahk)

After months of investigation as well as the revelation that at least 23 individuals had been questioned over match-fixing, it may come as a surprise that only four people have been charged. It should be noted that in the ICAC’s press release states that Green Grass is ongoing and that they have not ruled out further arrests.

The prosecution asked for, and were granted, an adjournment of the case until 27 June in order to review over 2,000 pages of phone messages, computer forensics, and to seek the opinions of gaming experts.

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