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File photo dated 18-04-2021 of Liang Wenbo. Alamy Stock Photo

Chinese duo given lifetime snooker bans for match-fixing

Liang Wenbo and Li Hang were among 10 players suspended.

CHINESE PAIR Liang Wenbo and Li Hang were given lifetime bans from snooker on Tuesday for match-fixing after a “heart-breaking” corruption scandal rocked the sport.

In total, 10 Chinese players were handed bans of varying lengths by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) on Tuesday.

Lu Ning, Zhao Xintong, Yan Bingtao, Chen Zifan, Zhang Jiankang, Bai Langning, Zhao Jianbo and Chang Bingyu were the other players suspended.

Yan, the 2021 Masters champion, has been banned for five years until December 2027 after his initial seven and a half-year suspension was reduced following his early admissions and guilty plea.

Former UK Championship winner Zhao Xintong will serve a 20-month suspension, reduced from two-and-a-half years after his early admissions and guilty plea, that ends in September 2024.

The charges included manipulating games, approaching players to cheat, betting on snooker and fixing a match.

“It has been heart-breaking to see some young, talented players fall foul of the WPBSA conduct regulations through pressure exerted by two senior players (Liang and Li),” WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson said.

“This behaviour has been recognised as wholly unacceptable by the imposition of two lifetime bans from participating in recognised snooker in any way.

“This outcome must be taken as a lesson to those who think they can avoid detection. If any player is involved in fixing a snooker match, they will be caught and will face severe penalties.”

World number 72 Liang, who won the 2016 English Open, and world number 71 Li must also pay £43,000 in costs.

The International Betting Integrity Association became aware of wrongdoing in August 2022 and a detailed investigation was carried out by the WPBSA Integrity Unit and Sportradar.

Liang was found to have “fixed or been a party to fix five snooker matches” between July 24 and September 28, 2022.

- Threats and a cover-up -

The panel determined that the 36-year-old “solicited, induced, enticed, persuaded, encouraged or facilitated players to fix nine matches” between 24 July and 13 December, 2022.

Liang was accused of behaving “in conduct that was corrupt by threatening another player and making him delete his messages on his phone”.

He was also found to have threatened another player to seek to persuade him not to assist the WPBSA enquiry.

When aware of the WPBSA enquiry, Liang was also found to have covered up or attempted to cover up his involvement in match-fixing by deleting messages on his phone and by requesting other players deleted messages.

Li has been found to be in breach of the regulations as he fixed or was a party to fix five snooker matches between July 24 and September 29, 2022.

The WPBSA also found he “solicited, induced, enticed, persuaded, encouraged or facilitated” players to fix seven matches between July 24 and December 13, 2022.

He was also found to have bet on snooker matches on or after September 1, 2022 when aware of the WPBSA enquiry, while covering up or attempting to cover up his involvement in match-fixing.

Yan, ranked 23, admitted he fixed four matches he played in and also bet on snooker matches.

The other players all accepted fixing matches except for world number 11 Zhao Xintong, who accepted he was a party to another player fixing two matches and that he had bet on snooker.

– © AFP 2023

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