FAS probe: A $500,000 Singapore football fiasco

(Clockwise from left) Singapore football figures Winston Lee, Bill Ng, Zainudin Nordin and Lim Kia Tong. Photo: Yahoo Singapore, FAS

The first-ever Football Association of Singapore (FAS) leadership elections will take place on Saturday (29 April) against the backdrop of a Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) probe into alleged misuse of club funds. The probe involves a former Member of Parliament and prominent figures from Singapore football, including some from Team LKT and Team Game Changers, which are contesting the election.

Led respectively by former FAS council member Lim Kia Tong and businessman Bill Ng, the two teams have also traded barbs publicly. At the centre of the CAD probe is a donation of around half a million dollars made by Ng, which went to the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF).

Here is a timeline of events of the saga so far:

13 April: Chairman of Tiong Bahru Football Club (TBFC) and Hougang United Football Club (HUFC) Bill Ng reveals at a press conference that he was approached by FAS general secretary Winston Lee to support the AFF Football Management System.

Ng said that he had donated about $500,000 to AFF through FAS and claimed the FAS council did not know about the donations. He also said he did not know what happened to the money. In response, Lee calls Ng’s insinuations about fund misuse “baseless and untrue”.

15 April: An FAS spokesman says it was former FAS president and Bishan-Toa Payoh Member of Parliament Zainudin Nordin who asked Ng to donate to the AFF.

16 April: SportSG, Singapore’s governing sports body, calls on the FAS to give an explanation on how it had used the ‘large donations’.

18 April: Lee sends copies of a letter, a cheque and payment vouchers to the media to show that Ng knowingly signed off on donating the $500,000 to the AFF. The letter also states that it was Zainudin who requested that Ng make the donation to AFF.

Ng refutes these claims, saying that Lee prepared the letter addressed to Zainudin, and that he had never dealt with Zainudin on any of the donations. Zainudin declines to comment on the issue.

19 April: At about 10.54pm, Lee issues a statement accusing Ng of electioneering. However, the FAS communication department retracts the statement on 20 April at 12.11am, saying that “legal advice is being sought”.

Meanwhile, SportSG files a police report against TBFC over “serious questions” about the use of club funds. In a media statement, it says that it received a tip-off from someone alleging that a senior TBFC official had instigated another club to delay or obstruct the completion of audits until after the FAS Elections with “false reasons”.

20 April: According to media reports, TBFC amassed some $37 million in jackpot revenue for the financial year 2015/16. In response, Ng says he is willing to allow government agencies to inspect the books of TBFC.

Police raids are carried out at the offices of the FAS, TBFC, HUFC and Woodlands Wellington Football Club. Officers are seen carrying away dozens of boxes apparently filled with documents.

21 April: The FAS Electoral Committee (EC), which oversees the processes leading up to the FAS elections, confirms that the elections will go on. The New Paper reports that football’s world governing body FIFA is monitoring the situation and cites sources saying that the election may be postponed.

22 April: Zainudin Nordin breaks his silence to deny that he has business dealings with Ng. With the Today newspaper citing TBFC documents that said Ng had endorsed Zainudin last June as the next TBFC chairman, Zainudin said that he had turned down the offer.

 25 April: Media reports say that Lee, Zainudin, Ng and his wife Bonnie Wong are assisting CAD with its probe and are out on police bail.

Meanwhile, Lim calls a press conference to stress that it was unaware of Ng’s $500,000 donation, even though several of his Team LKT members were FAS council members at the time when the donation was made.

Yahoo Singapore will be covering the FAS leadership elections this Saturday, 29 April.