Five Vietnamese footballers who played for a local club in the communist country’s scandal-hit V League were on Friday handed prison terms of up to six years for match fixing, a judge said.

The players, from Dong Nai Club in the country’s south, were arrested in 2014 following accusations they had manipulated the results of a V League match, judge Le Hong Cuong told AFP after the trial.

The team’s captain, Pham Huu Phat, was sentenced to six years in jail, while four other players were given suspended sentences ranging from 24 to 30 months after the one-day trial in Dong Nai province, Cuong said.

The players were involved in fixing a match against northern Quang Ninh province’s football team, in which Dong Nai lost 3-5, despite being by far the stronger team and in a safe position at the top of the league.

A police investigation found the five players had received 400 million dong ($18,500 USD) from local gamblers in return for their team losing by at least two goals.

Four local gamblers involved in the case were also sentenced — one of them to three years in prison, and the three others getting two year suspended sentences, the judge said.

The five players were also found guilty of fixing a match against northern Thanh Hoa province’s team in the same season, which Dong Nai also lost 0-3, netting the players thousands of dollars, the judge said.

The national Vietnam Football Federation will rule on whether the players will be allowed to re-enter the V League after they serve their sentences. 

Gambling is illegal but widespread in Vietnam, where it is punishable by jail terms ranging from two to 10 years for punters.

Gambling on football, the country’s most popularsport, is extremely popular, and a string of players have been sentenced in high-profile match fixing scandals.

In August 2014, nine Vietnamese players with northern Ninh Binh province’s football club were sentenced for match fixing at an Asian Football Confederation match in Malaysia. – Agence France-Presse

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