FIFA’S SIERRA LEONE MATCH-FIXING INVESTIGATION HEADS FOR FREETOWN

FIFA’S SIERRA LEONE MATCH-FIXING INVESTIGATION HEADS FOR FREETOWN

BY CHRIS OBUKWELU.

 

 

FIFA’s four-man investigation unit probing potential match fixing in Sierra Leonean football will finally arrive in Freetown on Sunday.

 

The panel is due to commence the investigation after extended delays due to disruptions by some elements determined to thwart the investigations.

 

Every time the FIFA investigative unit has been set to arrive in Freetown there had been some disruptions or confusion with the latest being the suspension of the SLFA president, Madam Isha Johansen and secretary general Christopher Kamara.

 

The match-fixing inquiry includes a World Cup qualifier between Sierra Leone and South Africa in 2008 that ended in a goalless draw.

 

Since 2014, eleven officials and four players have been suspended by Sierra Leone’s FA pending investigation, with all having denied wrongdoing.

 

According to a letter signed by FIFA Secretary General, Fatma Samoura, “the four-man FIFA unit is headed by Jean-Samuel Leuba, a lawyer. He is joined by Michael Emde, Peter Limacher and Paul Scotney, a former detective who has extensive experience of investigating corruption in sport.

 

“FIFA has established an independent investigation committee to conduct an inquiry into allegations of match-fixing within football in Sierra Leone in general and, in particular, match-fixing within the Sierra Leone FA,” said a FIFA statement.

 

“The duties of the independent committee are to investigate the allegations and provide a comprehensive report to the FIFA Members Associations Committee in order to allow for an informed decision on the matter.”

 

The current Sierra Leone FA executive, with its president Isha Johansen, has long pushed for a match-fixing inquiry to go ahead in addition to other illegal activities, human trafficking and violations of FIFA rules and regulations.

 

Johansen’s determination to clean up Sierra Leone football and usher in a new era of football development and progress has often been met with stiff resistance.

 

The resistance has even led to a boycott of the national league as some teams were convinced not to play under the current SLFA executive, several attempts have also been made to replace the current executive but all were deemed to be in contravention of either SLFA or FIFA statutes.

 

 

Central to the investigation is the 2010 World Cup qualifier that ended goalless between South Africa and Sierra Leone in Atteridgeville, South Africa, in June 2008.

 

FIFA will consider lifting Sierra Leone’s suspension from international football after the corruption case against the country’s FA President Isha Johansen is concluded in court.

 

Earlier this month, FIFA officials, including Fatma Samoura, met with Johansen and the Sierra Leone government to address the issue.

 

“FIFA will wait for the completion of the trial before further measures can be considered, including the lifting of the suspension, if deemed appropriate,” said a FIFA statement.

 

Johansen is facing trial along with Sierra Leone FA (SLFA) General Secretary Christopher Kamara. Both deny the charges.

 

The Sierra Leone government sent a high-level delegation, including Vice-president Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, attorney general and Minister of Justice Priscilla Schwartz and Lansana Gberie, Sierra Leone’s ambassador to Switzerland.

 

FIFA suspended Sierra Leone two weeks ago because of third-party interference in the running of the SLFA, saying that the ban would be lifted once Johansen and Kamara are reinstated.

 

The ban came after the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) set aside Johansen and Kamara and handed over control of the SLFA to vice-president Brima Mazola Kamara and assistant secretary general Abdul Rahman Swarray in direct contravention of FIFA statutes.

 

The ACC says that under Sierra Leone law, both Johansen and Kamara must vacate their posts until their case on corruption-related charges concludes. But many Sierra Leoneans have questioned the application of the law, which is meant for public entities and public officials when SLFA is an NGO that is affiliated with FIFA, a private entity.

 

The alleged corruption charges against Johansen were drastically reduced in court from ten to three, and from four to three for Kamara.

 

Sierra Leone’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Ghana, which were set to be played between 11-14 October, were cancelled and will not be rescheduled because of the suspension.

 

As a result Sierra Leone is out of the competition. Other outstanding issues that have led to a long-running dispute within the SLFA were discussed during the Zurich meeting and resolutions were taken.

 

 

 

These include a key match-fixing investigation of 15 players and officials who have been indefinitely suspended since 2014, the conduct of integrity tests on elected officials and a roadmap that will lead to the election of new SLFA executive committee.

 

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