Taipei (AFP) - Several former Taiwanese professional baseball players convicted of match-fixing are expected to avoid prison terms by paying fines, after a controversial ruling on one of Taiwan's worst sport scandals.
The high court said in a statement late Wednesday it had reduced the prison terms of six former players to up to three years in a final ruling. All except Tseng Han-chou -- who was convicted of extortion -- can pay fines in exchange for imprisonment.
Former star pitcher Chang Chih-chia's jail term was reduced to four months, down from a sentence of two years and two months imposed by a district court in 2011. He can pay a fine of Tw$120,000 ($4,000) to stay out of jail.
The court said it had reduced the sentences after some defendants confessed, and as there was insufficient evidence of match-fixing in some of the cases in question.
But Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) expressed regret over the ruling, and said it was concerned that the light sentencing would fail to deter similar crimes.
The Taipei-based China Times newspaper also criticised the lenient punishment meted out in five similar match-fixing cases since 1997 in a commentary on Thursday.
"Judges are the last line of defence on social justice, but why did they disregard (the facts) and deal with all five cases so leniently?" the paper asked.
Among the other defendants, former official Wu Chien-pao saw his sentence cut to five years and five months in jail on fraud and extortion convictions for coercing players to cooperate with his gambling ring. He had previously received a seven-year prison term.
Tsai Cheng-yi, who ran a gambling ring, also saw his sentence cut by two months to three years and eight months.
In 2009 prosecutors started investigating claims that some players received cash, luxury cars and paid-for sexual services from bookmakers in exchange for deliberately losing games. A total of 24 people were indicted the following year.
The case dealt a fresh blow to Taiwanese baseball, which has been hit by a string of similar scandals in recent years.
In 2008, Taiwan's baseball league banned the Media T-Rex team over match-fixing allegations implicating the team's management and three players, among others.