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Court Blows Whistle on Corrupt Whistle Blower
Corrupt referee Gong Jianping was given a 10-year jail term yesterday after being convicted of taking bribes during the 2000-01 Chinese Football League season.

The verdict was delivered by the Xuanwu District People's Court in Beijing in the first trial of the case. The court ruled that Gong had taken bribes totaling 370,000 yuan (US$44,700), according to the court reports.

The verdict also ended speculation among the general public and referees on how the case would be solved following Gong's detention by the Beijing Xuanwu District public security office in March.

Analysts said the case would set an example for judicial bodies, allowing them to investigate other referees suspected of corruption.

Gong was first accused by the Zhejiang Lucheng Football Club in October 2001 as one of eight referees who took bribes during the 2000-01 season.

Geely Corp Chairman Li Shufu and Lucheng President Song Weiping, who also head their companies' football teams, admitted to the public last year that they had bribed referees to win matches and expected to be punished.

Song and Li said they paid 60,000 yuan (US$7,300) to ensure a home victory. Li also estimated about 70 to 80 percent of league referees had taken bribes at least once.

The case of Gong, employed by the Chinese Football Association (CFA), drew severe criticism in recent years by fans and the media.

CFA said referees who admitted taking bribes should be forgiven with only those refusing to confess being punished by law.

With the exception of Gong, other referees suspected of corruption seem to have been forgiven by the CFA and some even appeared in the 2002 football league.

The Supreme People's Procuratorate issued a notice in March saying referees suspected of taking bribes will be prosecuted under charges of accepting bribes as corporation staff, according to Article No 163 of the Criminal Law.

Those charged with accepting bribes as corporation staff will be sentenced to fixed-term of imprisonment.

(China Daily January 30, 2003)

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