Police said Tuesday they’re investigating an active professional basketball coach over match-fixing allegations.
Seoul police said the coach, Chun Chang-jin of the Anyang KGC in the Korean Basketball League (KBL), allegedly bet against his own team and inserted bench players in the second half of games to ensure the team would lose.
Police said they suspect Chun, 52, of placing illegal bets on five games between February and March while he was coaching another KBL team, the Busan KT Sonicboom, and that they placed him under a travel ban earlier this month. They added that they plan to summon Chun for questioning next month and may also quiz other basketball figures, though there is no evidence yet that another person in the sport has been involved in possible match fixing.
Chun, who took over KGC last month, couldn’t be reached for comment.
According to police, the two detained individuals have denied Chun’s connection with their wagering.
The KBL was hit with a major match-fixing scandal in 2013, when Dongbu Promy head coach Kang Dong-hee became the first from a major domestic sports league to be sentenced for throwing games. The KBL later banned him for life.
Baseball, volleyball and football have recently dealt with their own match-fixing scandals, with active and former players indicted or convicted for their roles.
The only legal form of sports betting in South Korea is through purchasing Sports Toto lottery tickets. Sports Toto offers odds on wins, ties, losses and final scores. A bettor can only wager up to 100,000 won per ticket, up to six times a day.
Illegal sports gambling sites often offer “proposition bets,” or simply prop bets. They place odds on seemingly inconsequential stats, such as the number of free throws made in the opening quarter of a basketball game, and there is usually no cap on the amount of the wager.
Police said Chun might have chosen to bet on one game on different illegal sites because they all had limits on the amount of the wager.
At a press conference, Lee Jae-min, the KBL’s secretary general, said the league has been asked by police to provide relevant information and that the KBL has supplied video clips of the games in question, among other materials.
Lee also said the league, which earlier issued a public apology for the scandal, doesn’t know much more than what has been reported in the media.
“We first became aware of the situation through a report last night, and we’ve not been in touch with Chun himself,” Lee said. “What we do know at this point is that Chun has been implicated in illegal gambling allegations. We will continue to cooperate with the police as much as we can so that we will have the results at the earliest possible date.”
Lee said the KBL will “take stern steps as necessary” if Chun is found to have fixed games.
“The most severe we can hand down is the lifetime ban,” the official noted. “We recognize this as an extremely grave situation. We will have all possibilities open if allegations are found to be true, including the ban.”
In a statement sent to the KGC basketball team, Gangnam LLP, a Seoul-based law firm representing Chun, denied all allegations surrounding the coach.
Gangnam LLP said Chun has never fixed games or made illegal bets online. It said Chun once lent money to one of the men detained earlier for allegedly making bets for Chun, but that the coach had no idea the person would use the money to make illegal wagers.
“Coach Chun has never made any profit from this case,” the law firm added. “He will stand before authorities and clear his name.”