Try as it might, the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) just can’t seem to shake gambling scandals large and small.
On Thursday, one day after Korean media reported that Samsung Lions pitcher An Ji-man was under investigation for allegedly financing a friend’s illegal online gambling site, Seoul prosecutors charged the 33-year-old with gambling both domestically and abroad.
Seoul prosecutors began their investigation into An’s activities late last year as part of a probe into multiple Korean baseball stars’ visits to Macau casinos. Police now say that they have testimony from two individuals who witnessed An spending tens of thousands of dollars gambling in Macau casino VIP rooms.
Seoul police ramped up their investigation last month by seizing An’s computer and smartphone, which revealed visits to a Korea-based illegal online gambling site. An’s bank records detailed money sent to the same gambling site.
The Seoul prosecution appears to be separate from the investigation into An’s friend’s gambling site by prosecutors in Daegu, the home of the Samsung Lions. The Daegu prosecutors have yet to indict An, but the Lions have already submitted a request to the KBO to terminate An’s contract based on the Seoul indictment.
Online gambling is expressly forbidden in South Korea and even land-based gambling in foreign countries where the practice is illegal can get South Korean nationals in hot water back home if the scale of their gambling is deemed too large.
Switching to an actual scandal, prosecutors in the city of Changwon announced Thursday that they’d formally indicted pitcher Lee Tae-yang, star pitcher for KBO team NC Dinos, for allegedly agreeing to underperform on the mound in exchange for cash payments.
Prosecutors say an unidentified broker paid Lee KRW 20m (US $17,500) to allow first-inning walks and runs in two games last year, both of which his team lost. The broker reportedly sought to manipulate Lee’s performance in four games, but Lee either failed or declined to deliver on two occasions.
An outfielder in a KBO second-division team reportedly received KRW 10m for introducing the broker to Lee. The pitcher went 10-5 as a Dinos starter last year but the team has announced it had begun the process of terminating Lee’s contract. If convicted, Lee faces a lifetime ban from the KBO.