TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwanese authorities have detained six people on suspicion of accepting bets that prompted deliberately poor performances from baseball players, a prosecutor’s spokesman said on Tuesday.
The case, following a drive earlier this year to stop baseball gambling in Taiwan, could further tarnish the image of the island’s shrinking Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL).
The domestic game has already lost viewership due to public suspicion of betting.
Taiwan’s cabinet said earlier this year it would take clamp down on gambling as celebrities and the president attended games to revive spectator interest in the island’s most popular sport.
The Banciao prosecutor’s office in suburban Taipei detained six suspected betting intermediaries and questioned five others, spokesman Cheng Hsin-hung said.
More people are likely to be questioned as the probe proceeds, he said, adding that gambling organisers are suspected of taking bets on which team would win and by how many points.
He declined to say how many bets he believes were placed, how much money might have changed hands and how many players would have intentionally under-performed.
“We’re not saying yet that these people are guilty, but the odds that they committed crimes is pretty high,” Cheng said.
“We think this time individual players went in on it — not whole teams as in the past. We don’t think the coaches or managers got involved.”
One of the league’s teams, the Brother Elephants, said it would apologise if evidence pointed to any of its players. “Elephants President Hong Jui-ho emphasised that…as long as evidence points toward team players, the team absolutely won’t tolerate it and will apologise openly to the public and the fans at large,” the team said on the CPBL’s website (www.cpbl.com.tw).
Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau said it logged 102 illegal baseball betting cases, involving 222 people, last year.
The league’s four teams have lost 45 percent of their stadium attendance over the past five years, cutting attendance to about 573,000 annually, league statistics showed.
Image: REUTERS/Simon Kwong
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