Lee found guilty of match fixing
Stephen Lee, one of the leading players in the world, has been found guilty of fixing seven snooker matches.
The verdict was confirmed by Nigel Mawer, the chairman of the disciplinary committee of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPSBA).
Mawer told Press Association Sport that Lee, the 38-year-old former world number five, has been found guilty of match-fixing charges relating to seven matches.
The sanction will be announced at a separate hearing on September 24 and Lee could face a lifetime ban.
Lee was charged following an investigation into eight matches - four at the Malta Cup in 2008, two at the UK Championship 2008, and one each at the China Open in 2009 and the World Championship 2009.
He was suspended last October and an independent hearing was arranged by Sport Resolutions UK.
It is the biggest case of match-fixing to hit snooker since Australian Quinten Hann was suspended for eight years in 2006 for breaking rules governing match-fixing after he was caught in a sting by undercover reporters where he agreed to lose a game at the China Open in return for money.
Last year, Joe Jogia was banned for two years after the WPBSA found him guilty of breaching betting rules.
In a statement, the WPBSA confirmed: "The allegations were serious and related to match fixing or the provision of inside information to enable persons to win money by betting on those matches.
"The matches in question were three matches in the Malta Cup 2008, two matches at the UK Championship 2008, one at the China Open 2009 and one at the World Championship 2009."
The WPBSA asked Sport Resolutions UK to appoint an independent QC to hear the available evidence. Adam Lewis QC was appointed to hear the case - which was heard in Bristol last week.
Lewis ruled: "Stephen Lee is found guilty of "agreeing an arrangement... [and of] ...accepting or receiving or offering to receive... payment or... other... benefit... in connection with influencing the outcome or conduct of" each of the seven matches in breach of Rule 2.9."
The WPBSA statement continued: "The facts are that between February 2008 and April 2009, Stephen Lee was in contact with three different groups of people, all of whom placed bets on the outcomes of his matches or on the outcomes of frames within his matches or on the exact score of his matches.
"This took place in seven matches over four tournaments. The matches were Lee v Robertson, Lee v Fu and Lee v Doherty in the Malta Cup 2008 where there was betting on the exact score and the match outcomes. Lee v Hendry and Lee v King in the UK Championship 2008 where the betting was on the outcome of the first frame in each match. Lee v Selby in the China Open where there was betting on the match outcome. Lee v Day in the World Championship where there were bets on match outcome and the exact score. In this match there was 'in match' betting on the outcome of the frames in progress.
"The bets were placed by three groups of people. The first were organised by his then sponsor who opened multiple betting accounts with various associates. These accounts were used to place the bets. The second group were coordinated by his then manager who placed almost identical bets. The third was an individual known to Lee who placed the same bets independently of the other two groups. Lee was in contact with the groups in the lead up to the matches in question and afterwards. In one case the person collected the successful bet and placed the half of the winnings into Lee's wife's bank account.
"The total amount bet on these matches was in excess of £111,000 leading to winnings of over £97,000 for the persons placing the bets.
"It is not clear how much Lee benefited from their activity or of his motivation to get involved in match fixing."
WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson added: "The WPBSA has a zero tolerance approach to match fixing.
"We have an extensive network of contacts across the world with the gambling industry and with bodies such as the International Centre for Sport Security and the Gambling Commission.
"This particular case was extremely difficult and complicated to bring to a hearing. We believe we have established the world's most sophisticated system in dealing with corruption in sport and we will take every step under the WPBSA rules to deal with those responsible.
"Today's ruling is a stark warning to competitors in any sport who could become vulnerable in the future.
"Stephen Lee was the number five player in the world and had the opportunity to be part of snooker's great success story. His future participation in the sport is now in real doubt as he will face a significant sanction."