One of Taiwan’s most respected baseball coaches was questioned by prosecutors yesterday over his alleged involvement in a match-fixing scandal, officials and media said.
TV images showed head coach of the Uni-President Lions, Lu Wen-sheng, and his wife, Hsieh Fu-yu, being separately escorted by investigators to the Banciao District Court in New Taipei City for questioning.
Agents suspected that Lu’s wife had passed on details about the Lions, including the starting lineups and injuries to individual players, to the leader of an underground sports betting ring, Chinese-language newspapers reported.
The papers, including the Apple Daily, said agents and prosecutors had tapped the couple’s telephones for six months following a tip-off.
Lions manager Su Tai-an said Lu has been suspended as head coach for the time being while investigations are underway. Chief prosecutor Cheng Hsin-hung was not reachable for comment.
The Sports Affairs Council, the top government body in charge of Taiwan’s sports development, issued a stern statement pledging to “severely punish anyone damaging domestic professional baseball.”
If found guilty, Lu could be jailed for up to five years on charges of betrayal of trust.
The Lions have won four post-season championships since 2007 after Lu became the head coach, a record for a coach in Taiwan’s professional baseball history.
Taiwan’s professional baseball league took a hit in the middle of last year, when six former players and a politician were sentenced to jail terms of up to seven years following a match-fixing scandal.
Meanwhile, Sports Affairs Council Minister Tai Hsia-ling (戴遐齡) yesterday reiterated the government’s determination to severely punish those who engage in game-fixing.
She said that the Legislative Yuan has passed an amendment to Article 21 of the Sports Lottery Act (運彩發行條例). Those compromising the fairness of the games through means of force, threat, fraud or other methods could be sentenced to one to seven years in prison and could also face a fine of between NT$10 million and NT$30 million.
“We have the determination to give professional players a clean environment,” Tai said.
Tai added that the council has been making structural changes to professional baseball since 2009, including setting up a free-agent system and a minimum-wage policy. Meanwhile, she said the council has worked with the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Education as well as the Chinese Professional Baseball League and professional baseball teams to prevent game-fixing.
When asked who should be held responsible for the alleged scandal this time, Tai said that the system was “well-rounded” and Lu should be responsible for his own behavior.
“The regulations are there to lead people in the right direction, but they still make mistakes. One’s character should be an important factor,” Tai said. “He should be [held] responsible for what he did under such a well-rounded law. He is not a three-year-old.”
Additional Reporting by Shelley Shan