Stephen Lee: Banned snooker player avoids prison in Hong Kong

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Stephen Lee, who won five ranking titles between 1998 and 2012, initially arrived in Hong Kong on 9 April

Banned snooker player Stephen Lee has avoided prison despite admitting to working illegally in Hong Kong.

Lee, 43, was arrested in April and has been on bail since initially pleading not guilty to breaching the conditions of his tourist visa.

However, the case was dismissed after his lawyers and the prosecution team agreed to a 12-month good behaviour bond of HK$1,000 (£95).

If found guilty, Lee had been facing a minimum three-month prison sentence.

"I just want to thank the legal team. It's been a tough last month or so. I thank them for all the support. I'm looking to go and relax for a couple of days," said Lee.

The former world number five was banned for 12 years in 2013 after being found guilty of match-fixing charges.

The undercover officer & the one-on-one lesson

Hong Kong's Immigration Department had been informed Lee, who arrived on a tourist visa on 9 April, was offering one-on-one lessons and an undercover officer entered the billiards hall on 12 April.

Lee provided the lesson to the officer, who then paid with marked bills before revealing his identity and arresting the Englishman and two others.

On the first day of the planned two-day trial, Lee confirmed the prosecution's version of events and agreed to the 12-month good behaviour bond.

This leaves Lee with no criminal record in Hong Kong because he was not found guilty.

The offence of breach of condition of stay carries a maximum fine of 50,000 Hong Kong dollars (£4,570) and two years in prison.

'Relaxed Lee relieved by verdict'

Martin Yip, BBC News Chinese

Lee arrived at the court looking relaxed in a black jacket despite heavy rain and temperatures reaching 30C.

The trial was meant to run for two days, but lasted less than half an hour. Lee stood at the back of the courtroom and listened to the indictment read to him by the clerk of the court. The magistrate explained to Lee the conditions of a binding over arrangement and asked if he would agree. Lee simply said "yes".

While waiting outside of the court office for some final paperwork, Lee expressed relief to reporters before being ushered away by his lawyer.

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