Police book 26 athletes in illegal gambling probe

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Police book 26 athletes in illegal gambling probe

More than 20 athletes have been booked without detention over allegations involving illegal gambling and match-fixing, authorities announced Tuesday.

Twelve former and active professional basketball players, 13 judokas and one wrestler have been charged for violating the National Sports Promotion Act, according to the cyber-investigation team at the Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency. They are scheduled to be questioned by prosecutors starting tomorrow.

Three of the athletes are currently serving mandatory military duty, police said, so the Military Police will investigate their cases.

Among those booked, the police confirmed that 11 players from the Korean Basketball League (KBL), the nation’s top professional league, engaged in illegal gambling online.

In Korea, the purchase of state-managed Sports Toto lottery tickets is the only legal form of sports betting.

Authorities mentioned that Seoul SK Knights guard Kim Sun-hyung; Goyang Orions center Jang Jae-seok; Wonju Dongbu Promy guard Ahn Jae-wook; and Busan KT Sonicboom forward Kim Hyun-min had been implicated.

The KBL later revealed the names of seven other players including Anyang KGC forward Oh Se-keun.

Kim Sun-hyung, a two-time KBL All-Star Game MVP and an Asian Games gold medalist, was summoned by police Monday after returning from the William Jones Cup in Taiwan.

Police said that one former basketball player, only identified by his surname Park, and one judoka surnamed Hwang had been charged for match-fixing in addition to illegal gambling.

According to authorities, Hwang allegedly ordered Park to deliberately make an “air ball” during the KBL game last season, and bet that Park’s team would be defeated.

The 26 violators engaged in illegal gambling online from August 2009 to March, police said, betting anywhere from 1 million won ($835) to nearly 100 million won each time.

They added that they believe the basketball players had participated in illegal gambling practices as fellow college students, while others fell into illegal gambling while they were completing their mandatory military service with Sangmu, the military’s athletic club.

According to police, at least four athletes made illegal bets even after going pro. The results of the investigation came as a surprise Tuesday to the KBL.

The league called an emergency board meeting to discuss the situation as well as actions to be taken against its players if they are found guilty.

The KBL said that 11 KBL players will not play in the new season, which kicks off Saturday, until they are formally cleared of all charges.

Under KBL rules, the league can impose a lifetime ban if a player or coach has been found to have purchased basketball lottery tickets.

The KBL most recently came under scrutiny in July after five-time KBL Coach of the Year Jeon Chang-jin was charged with match-fixing while he was with Busan KT Sonicboom.

He is still under investigation by prosecutors.

In 2013, the KBL also imposed a lifetime ban on Kang Dong-hee, the former head coach of the Wonju Dongbu Promy, after he was sentenced to 10 months in prison for fixing games in 2011.

The KBL also punished former Wonju TG Sambo guard Yang Kyung-min in 2005 with a 36-game suspension and 3 million won fine for purchasing sports lottery tickets for the game in which he was playing.

The athlete was later indicted for violating the National Sports Promotion Act and fined 1 million won, but returned to the league before retiring in 2008.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]
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