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EUIJEONGBU, South Korea, March 11 (Yonhap) -- A local court on Monday granted prosecutors' request for an arrest warrant for a professional basketball head coach under match-fixing suspicions.
The district court here in Euijeongbu in Gyeonggi Province, north of Seoul, issued the warrant to detain Kang Dong-hee, the head coach of the Dongbu Promy in the Korean Basketball League (KBL), on charges of violating laws governing national sports promotion. He is the first active coach of a South Korea pro sports team to face match-rigging allegations.
Last week, prosecutors summoned Kang for nearly 12 hours of questioning. They believe Kang took some 40 million won (US$36,720) from two gambling brokers on four occasions during the 2010-2011 season in the KBL. Kang has been the head coach of the Promy since the 2009-2010 season.
Kang has denied all fixing allegations surrounding him.
On Feb. 28, prosecutors arrested a broker, surnamed Choi, for allegedly giving Kang cash to fix games. Then on Wednesday this week, they arrested a second broker, a former professional baseball player surnamed Cho, on the same charges.
Prosecutors said last Friday they will expand their investigation into a fourth person who allegedly supplied the two brokers with cash. The person, whose name was withheld, is currently serving time in prison for his role in a major match-fixing scandal in South Korean pro football in 2011. He had been convicted of starting an illegal sports betting site and paying six active pro football players cash in exchange for fixing games.
If convicted, Kang, 46, faces up to five years in jail or up to 50 million won in fines.
Kang coached his team in a KBL game last Wednesday, a day before facing prosecutors' questions. His assistant, Kim Young-man, took over on the bench last Saturday, and Dongbu has said Kim will coach the team for the remaining three games of the ongoing season.
Kang has said he had personal ties with Choi, one of the arrested brokers, but claimed he'd never taken any money from him.
Kang served as Dongbu's assistant coach from 2005 to 2009, and became the team's head coach before the 2009-2010 season. The team has finished second in the league twice on Kang's watch. Last year, Dongbu established new KBL records for most wins in a season with 44 and most consecutive victories with 16.
Dubbed "Wizard on the Court," Kang is also regarded as one of South Korea's greatest point guards, dating back to the late 1980s and the early 1990s, before the launch of the professional league. He was the MVP in the inaugural KBL season in 1997 and led the league in assists four times.
The KBL is the latest pro sports league in South Korea to be hit with a match-fixing scandal, following the leagues for football, baseball and volleyball.
Han Sun-kyo, commissioner of the KBL, has said the league will also hand out a stiff penalty, possibly a lifetime ban, if Kang is found guilty.
In earlier match-fixing cases in other sports, players, active or retired, were found to have taken cash from brokers making their bets on illegal sports gambling Web sites.
These sites offer proposition bets, or "prop bets." They place odds on seemingly inconsequential plays, such as the number of free throws made in the first quarter of a basketball game, often with no cap on the amount of wager. It's considered easier for gamblers to fix such minute plays.
The only legal form of sports betting in South Korea is through buying Sports Toto lottery tickets. Sports Toto offers odds on wins, ties, losses and the combined scores between teams. A bettor can only wager 100,000 won per ticket.
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