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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

FIFA’s handling of banned Africans makes Bin Hammam litmus test of fight against corruption

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohamed Bin Hammam is expected to be banned by FIFA’s ethics committee over bribery charges. (File Photo)

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohamed Bin Hammam is expected to be banned by FIFA’s ethics committee over bribery charges. (File Photo)
World soccer body FIFA’s handling of last year’s banning of two of its African executive committee members is raising questions about the organization’s sincerity in rooting out corruption in its ranks.

The questions come three days ahead of the expected banning by FIFA’s ethics committee of Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam on charges of having bribed Caribbean Football Union (CFU) executives.

The handling of the Africans makes the Bin Hammam case a litmus test for FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s pledge to fight corruption and shore up his organization’s tarnished image. FIFA’s ethics committee meets on Friday and Saturday in Zurich to pass judgement on the charges against Mr. Bin Hammam. It is expected to ban the Qatari national for life from involvement in soccer.
Doubts about FIFA’s enforcement of measures against executives punished for corruption or improper behaviour stem from the fact that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has listed the two banned African executives on a number of its committees for the period of 2011 to 2013 even though they are barred by FIFA.

CAF’s inclusion of the two executives was first revealed by journalist Osasu Obayiuwana of Nigerian newspaper Next on Sunday.

The two executives, Slim Aloulou of Tunisia, and Amadou Diakite of Mali, were banned globally last November from any involvement in soccer on charges first disclosed in Britain’s Sunday Times of having accepted bribes to vote for Morocco’s failed bid for the 2010 World Cup. Mr. Aloulou was banned for two years while Mr. Diakite was banned for three years. Both had their punishments reduced by a year each following an appeal in February.

Mr. Obayiuwana reported that CAF in its appointments list for the period June 2011 to June 2013, which was released last month with a cover letter signed by CAF acting secretary general Hicham Amrani listed Mr. Aloulou as president of the organising committee for the African Youth Championship, vice-president of the organising committee for the African U-17 Championship and member of CAF’s Inter-Club Competitions Committee and Championship of African Nations (CHAN) organizing committee. Mr. Diakite was appointed as a member of the Inter-Club Competitions Committee.

Mr. Obyiuwana quoted FIFA as insisting in response to the appointments that it had received confirmation from CAF that “CAF fully respects the ruling and that Slim Aloulou is not taking part in any football related matter.” In a subsequent statement, FIFA said that it “has asked Caf to ensure that, during the period of their suspension, the names of Slim Aloulou and Amadou Diakite are not published in any Caf committee list or, alternatively, are marked as ‘banned from taking part in any football-related activity’ on such lists during this period.”

The banning of Messrs. Aloulou and Diakite kick started the worst corruption scandal in FIFA’s 107-year history. A total of 10 of FIFA’s 24 executive committee members, including Mr. Bin Hammam and FIFA president Sepp Blatter, have been tarnished by allegations of corruption or improper behavior.

Mr. Blatter was cleared in late May by the FIFA ethics committee days before a FIFA presidential election. The committee at the same time suspended Mr. Bin Hammam, FIFA vice president Jack Warner and two CFU officials pending the outcome of an investigation.

Mr. Bin Hammam, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, dropped his presidential candidacy hours before his suspension, paving the way for Mr. Blatter to be re-elected for a fourth term. Mr. Warner last month resigned from FIFA as well as head of soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean in an apparent bid to avoid further investigation.

A leaked report by the FIFA ethics committee has fuelled the speculation that Mr. Bin Hammam will be banned for life. Although the report concludes that there is no smoking gun for the allegations that Mr. Bin Hammam in collusion with Mr. Warner sought to bribe CFU officials to ensure that they would support his FIFA presidential campaign, it is viewed as compelling enough to ban the Asian soccer boss.

“It appears rather compelling to consider that the actions of Mr. Bin Hammam constitute prima facie an act of bribery, or at least an attempt to commit bribery,” the 17-page report says. It describes former FIFA vice president and head of soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean Jack Warner, who resigned to avoid condemnation, as “an accessory to corruption.”

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