Net closes in on looters

CORRUPTION UNDER THE SPOTLIGHTTHE net appears to be closing on ZIFA leaders accused of looting funds generated from gate receipts from Zimbabwe’s 2017 Nations Cup qualifier against Guinea as United States and Swiss officials announced yesterday there could be more arrests in their FIFA investigation.

Prosecutors in the US and Switzerland said there will be a fresh wave of arrests after new evidence emerged in their wide-ranging investigation into FIFA corruption.

It was also revealed that Swiss authorities have seized property in the Alps in relation to alleged money laundering as part of the investigations.

The announcements came on the day police in Bulawayo yesterday transferred the fraud docket filed by the Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association, over alleged embezzlement of funds generated from gate receipts during the 2017 Nations Cup qualifier against Guinea, to Mbare Police Station in Harare.

The supporters’ body opened a fraud case against ZIFA at Bulawayo Central Police Station on Saturday after questioning how board members ended up sharing $4 000 from money collected at the gates, while questions have also been raised as to why that transaction was not reflected on the income and expenditure statement that was released by ZIFA.

ZIFA board member Fungai Chihuri signed for $2 800, in board expenses, while another $2 800 was allocated to travel and subsistence costs for the association’s leadership. Four ZIFA board members have been named in the scandal.

ZNSSA are querying the ZIFA income and expenditure statement for the 2017 Nations Cup qualifier that showed a loss of $12,481 when, it has emerged, the figures were allegedly cooked so as to dupe the nation that the Association suffered a deficit when, in fact, it could have realised a profit.

Already, Herentals College, who donated two buses for use by the Warriors and Guinea ahead of their showdown, have disputed that they received the $3 000 which is shown on the ZIFA income and expenditure statement as having gone towards the hiring of buses.

Herentals College have revealed that they donated the buses, fuel and drivers to ZIFA as part of their service to the country.

ZNSSA president Eddie Chivero made the report under IR Number 7865 /15.

“We have been told the document has been sent to Mbare Police Station,” said Chivero last night.

Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson Precious Simango could neither confirm nor deny the developments last night and only promised to issue a comment today.

Police sources, however, confirmed that the docket had been transferred to Mbare Police Station.

“The crime occurred at Rufaro Stadium. That is where the money was taken, hence the reason the case is being referred there,” said a police source.

The income and expenditure statement makes no mention of the $20 000 donated by PHD Ministries leader Walter Magaya as players’ allowances, despite ZIFA claiming $22 000 from gate takings was paid to players.

Sources say the amount actually taken as players’ allowances was as high as $30 000.

In Switzerland yesterday, Swiss attorney-general, Michael Lauber, confirmed a 2005 contract bearing the signature of FIFA president Sepp Blatter that involved the sale of World Cup TV rights to the disgraced former FIFA official Jack Warner for a fraction of their true value was now part of the investigation.

The contract threatens to drag the FIFA president, who has refused to travel to the US since the scandal broke, closer to the epicentre of the investigation.

Blatter has insisted he is “clean”, saying: “I have my conscience and I know I’m an honest man. I am clean. I am not a worried man.”

As Swiss and US authorities gave a joint update on their parallel investigations into what has been called “a World Cup of fraud”, the US attorney-general, Loretta Lynch, said a new wave of arrests was looming.

FIFA was thrown into crisis in May by dramatic arrests and indictments that alleged wide-ranging money laundering, racketeering and fraud.

“Separate and apart from the pending indictment, our investigation remains active and on-going. It has in fact expanded since May. The scope of our investigation is not limited and we are following the evidence where it leads,” Lynch said at a Press conference with Lauber in Zurich.

“We do anticipate pursuing additional charges against individuals and entities.”

Asked whether those charged could include global federations such as FIFA and confederations such as the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) or the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol), Lynch said they could if offences took place under US jurisdiction but refused to comment further.

“If they used the US financial system, we feel we would have the ability to charge them,” said Lynch, who in May outlined the scale of the US department of justice charges against 14 individuals, including nine current or former FIFA executives.

Lauber confirmed that among financial assets seized since 27 May were properties including apartments in the Swiss Alps and that 121 suspicious banking transactions are under investigation. It has seized 11 terabytes of data, equivalent to around 900m pages of information.

“House searches have been conducted in Switzerland and further evidence has been collected,” Lauber said.

“Where proportional and needed, financial assets have been seized, including real estate, for example flats in the Swiss Alps. At this point I would like to emphasise that investments in real estate can be misused for the purpose of money laundering.”

Swiss authorities are focusing their efforts on allegations concerning the awards of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, while US investigators continue their investigations into allegations of corruption against Fifa officials. Of the 14 FIFA officials indicted in May, 13 have been arrested of whom three have been charged in US courtrooms and 10 await extradition. Lynch confirmed she ideally wants to prosecute all 14 at the same time but pointed out that defendants could be tried in their absence.

Lynch warned that the US investigation that detailed a web of corruption, money laundering and racketeering mainly involving kickbacks on the sale of TV rights but also allegations of vote buying and bribery was far from over.

“All individuals involved in soccer, through which we teach our children sportsmanship, integrity and the fundamentals of fair play, must be committed to reform and to compliance with the rule of law,” she said.

“To anyone who seeks to live in the past and return soccer to the days of corruption and bribery, cronyism and patronage this global response sends a strong message – you are on the wrong side of progress and you do a disservice to the integrity of this wonderful sport.”

Lauber refused to put a timescale on the Swiss investigation and implicitly criticised other jurisdictions for not doing enough to help.

“This investigation will take much more than the legendary 90 minutes. Let me however assure you, that we are well aware of the public’s interest in this investigation and have clearly prioritised based on the interests at stake, but clearly: we are not even near the half-time break,” he said.

“We are also looking for means to accelerate the procedure; in this context an additional challenge might be seen in the fact some of the information of interest to our criminal proceedings is under seal. It would be helpful if parties involved would cooperate more substantially.”

Lauber said FIFA’s statement on Sunday night, which sought to explain the basis on which Warner was awarded TV rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups for a fraction of their true value, would be considered as part of the investigation.

It said that under the terms of the agreement that “FIFA was to receive a fixed licensing fee as well as a 50% share of any profits related to the subcontracting of these rights.

“The CFU (Caribbean Football Union) made several breaches to the contract and failed to meet its financial obligations. The obligations concerning the required pre-approval for subcontracting were not met either. For these reasons, FIFA terminated its contract with the CFU on 25 July 2011.” In her speech to fellow prosecutors, Lynch warned no one was beyond the law.

“We made it abundantly clear once again that prosecutors around the world will stand together in order to root out corruption and bring wrongdoers to justice — no matter where they are, no matter how complex their crimes and no matter how powerful they may be,” she said.

“Our message is clear: no individual is impervious to the law. No corrupt organisation is beyond its reach. And no criminal act can evade the concerted efforts of dedicated men and women fighting for justice.” — Bulawayo Bureau/The Guardian/AFP