Fri, Feb 10, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Former national coach quits amid gambling scandal

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Former national basketball squad head coach Yen Chia-hua watches a William Jones Cup game between Taiwan and Japan in New Taipei City on July 23 last year.

Photo: Lin Cheng-kung, Taipei Times

A match-fixing scandal threatens to taint basketball in the nation, after Taiwan Beer coach Yen Chia-hua (閻家驊), a former national team head coach, was on Wednesday released on bail of NT$500,000 following questioning by prosecutors as part of an investigation into gambling allegations.

The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office is leading the investigation, as 63-year-old Yen allegedly placed bets in Taipei on the results of the William Jones Cup in 2015, when he was manager of the Chinese Taipei basketball team.

The scandal has shocked officials, players, the Chinese Taipei Basketball Association and fans, as Yen is a highly respected figure in the sport and is the coach with the most wins (225) in Taiwan’s Super Basketball League, having led Taiwan Beer to four championship titles in the league’s 14-year history.

As the scandal could gravely damage the credibility of the sport and expose the murky side of the inner circles of Taiwanese basketball, Yen yesterday released a statement announcing his resignation as head coach of Taiwan Beer.

“I will fully cooperate with the investigation and have resigned my head coach position, effective today, to show that I take responsibility for my actions,” Yen said in the statement. “I deeply regret harming the team and basketball fans.”

Officials said Yen’s case was the result of a Criminal Investigation Bureau probe into an illegal online gambling operation, in which witness testimony and evidence pointed to his involvement in betting on the results of the national basketball team’s games in 2015 while under his charge.

Prosecutors yesterday confirmed that bureau and police units had raided Yen’s residence on Wednesday and summoned him for questioning, with the investigation focusing on illegal gambling and whether he had instructed players to throw games to profit from bets on fixed outcomes.

Yen has maintained that he did not engage in illegal gambling, saying that it was his friends who had placed the bets.

However, prosecutors said they have gathered evidence pointing to Yen’s involvement, adding that raids were also conducted on the residences of his girlfriend, surnamed Cheng (盛); the alleged boss of the gambling operations, surnamed Tsai (蔡); and Tsai’s wife.

Yen used Cheng’s accounts to place bets on the national team’s games, as well as other basketball competitions, investigators said, adding that telephone records indicated that he had a close relationship with Tsai.

Association chairman Ting Shou-chung (丁守中), a former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator, yesterday asked the public to keep its faith in the sport, saying: “We are confident SBL games are clean.”

“SBL games have not been tainted, because they are not often included in the nation’s sports lottery, in which the Jones Cup is listed as an international competition,” Ting said. “If the case concerns underground betting, the SBL has not been affected, because, from our understanding, very few people bet on SBL games.”

As of this week, Taiwan Beer are tied with the Fubon Braves for second in the league with a 15-9 record, trailing leaders the Dacin Tigers (16-7).

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