South Korean baseball pitcher An Ji-Man has been formally charged of engaging in an illegal online gambling operation, despite earlier reports that he had been cleared of charges.
An, a former pitcher for the Samsung Lions in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), was summoned back in July by the district prosecutor’s office in Daegu for investigation over allegations that he provided funds to a friend who went on to launch an illegal betting site.
Prosecutors said An gave KRW160 million (USD146,000) to his friend, according to reports. The pitcher denied the allegation and told authorities that he’d lent his friend money for the purposes of opening a restaurant.
Prosecutors had cleared the 33-year-old former pitcher of his illegal online gambling charges back in August after they failed to find enough evidence to back the allegations, according to Yonhap News. Samsung Lions player Yun Sung-hwan was also cleared of the same charges.
At the time, the Seoul District Prosecutor’s Office also had to suspend the illegal online gambling probe while authorities look for the “gambling site operators who can possibly give reference on the case.”
The illegal gambling investigation has prompted the Lions to remove An off their active roster, while the KBO temporarily suspended the player from joining baseball activities. The organization said “it would take additional steps as necessary, depending on court decisions.”
This is the second brush with illegal gambling in the past year for An, who was previously caught up in a scandal that saw multiple South Korean baseball stars accused of gambling in Macau casinos. South Korean law frowns on its citizens gambling abroad, although it tends to look the other way if the gambling is determined to be “just for momentary pleasure” rather than “habitual.”
Locally, online gambling is strictly against the rules in South Korea, which has led most South Korean-facing operators to base their operations in countries like Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. It’s unknown where An’s acquaintance based the site at the heart of the pitcher’s latest legal woes.
An was known as one of the most reliable setup men in South Korea, helping the country win the Asian Games gold medals in 2010 and 2014.