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Baseball club cleared of fraud following controversial transaction

All Headlines 18:13 February 14, 2017

UIJEONGBU, South Korea, Feb. 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korean baseball club NC Dinos were cleared of fraud charges on Tuesday following a controversial transaction.

District prosecutors in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, some 20 kilometers north of Seoul, dropped the charges against the Dinos' former general manager and head of baseball operations.

Gyeonggi police earlier accused the two officials of trading away a pitcher under match-fixing suspicions in exchange for cash. The pitcher in question, Lee Sung-min, was left unprotected in the expansion draft after the 2014 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season, and when the KT Wiz selected the pitcher, the Dinos received 1 billion won (US$878,000) in compensation. Police believed the Dinos had engaged in fraudulent trading.

Prosecutors disagreed with police, saying the transaction was different from a conventional "player-for-cash" trade, and that the Dinos weren't under any obligation to let the Wiz know of Lee's potential ties to match fixing.

Uijeongbu prosecutors also said the Dinos couldn't be certain of Lee's match-fixing history at the time of the expansion draft, because of the player's vehement denials.

"The Dinos may face moral criticism for not informing KT of Lee Sung-min's background, but they can't be legally punished because of that special draft," an official at the district prosecution office said.

The Dinos said they were "relieved" to have been found innocent, and apologized to their fans for the scandal.

"We'll do our best this season to return fans' love and support," an NC official said.

Also on Tuesday, Lee was indicted without physical detention for match-fixing allegations, along with another KBO pitcher, An Seung-min of the Hanwha Eagles.

Lee's former NC teammate, Lee Jae-hak, who had also faced fixing accusations, was cleared of his charges.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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