LONDON (AFP) – Former world number five Stephen Lee was found guilty of fixing seven snooker matches on Monday.
England's Lee could face a lifetime ban after the verdict was confirmed by Nigel Mawer, the chairman of the disciplinary committee of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPSBA).
The 38-year-old's sanction will be announced at a separate hearing on September 24.
Lee, the winner of five ranking titles during his career, 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 the same year.
He was suspended last October and an independent hearing was arranged by Sport Resolutions UK.
Adam Lewis QC said in a WPBSA statement: "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 said 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.
The total amount bet on these matches was in excess of Â£111,000 ($176,500, 132,300 euros) leading to winnings of over Â£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.
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.
WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson added: "The WPBSA have 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.
"Today's ruling is a stark warning to competitors in any sport who could become vulnerable in the future. Stephen Lee was the number 5 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."