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Botswana implicated in FIFA corruption

MQONDISI DUBE
FIFA headquarters. PIC: FIFA.COM
A journalist tasked by an American law enforcement agency to investigate possible corruption in the awarding of the 2018 and the 2022 World Cup bids alleges Botswana benefited from kickbacks.

Kushatha Ndibi, an investigative journalist with e-Botswana was tasked with unearthing corruption around the two bids, which have seen the arrest of high profile former and sitting FIFA members. She was contracted over a three-year period, from 2010 to 2013.

Her brief was to travel throughout Africa in a bid to uncover corrupt CAF activities linked to the awarding of the two bids.

“We don’t have exact amount but the monies, including gifts, were received at different times,” Ndibi told Mmegi this week.

She alleges that in one instance, unnamed Botswana Football Association (BFA) officials received Rolex watches worth P80,000 each.

Qatar, she said, had promised a host of associations money meant for “football development.”  This is suspected to have been a deal sweetener to ensure Qatar won the 2022 bid. The bid is now subject of a wide spread investigation with America spearheading the purge of corrupt activities at FIFA. The probe has already netted high profile current and former FIFA executives.

Ndibi said in their investigations, it was found that vote buying was rampant, particularly during elections at association, regional and CAF level.

But David Fani, who was BFA president at the time, denies any wrongdoing on their part.

Fani said the association never received any money from Qatar, apart from a trip to the Southwest Asian country “which we explained at the time.”

 “The trip was sanctioned by the BFA national executive committee. It was purely for football purposes and nothing else. I even inquired about the purpose of the trip before we travelled,” Fani said.

 Disgraced former Asian Football Association president, Mohammed bin Hammam was behind the trip. Hammam, a Qatari was banned from football for life after it was discovered he had paid members of other nations’ football associations in the run up to his FIFA presidential election campaign and prior to the 2018 and 2022 bids.

Fani was accompanied by then BFA vice president, and current minister of Trade and Industry, Vincent Seretse. It was an official trip, where Fani and Seretse and their spouses were in attendance.

He wondered how Qatar could have bribed associations when it was the FIFA executive committee that was involved in the bid vote.

“We were asked to visit and see the development of Qatar football. We explored areas of collaboration particularly after we were impressed about their sports academy. We also wanted to send the Zebras to the academy to train there (in preparation for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations finals),” Fani said.

He also denied any involvement in ‘vote buying’ during local elections.

“I do not know anything. I personally do not know if money exchanged hands. I never got involved as I ran a clean campaign,” Fani

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said. During the 2012 BFA elections there were reports in the local media alleging a CAF representative was in the country to sway the vote in a preferred candidate’s favour.

“I was not aware of anyone from CAF (at the time). I only heard about the issue through the press.” Asked if he suspected any corrupt activities at FIFA during his tenure, Fani said he had no reason to.

 

“I never suspected anything. FIFA is at a different level. If something was happening it was at the level of the (FIFA) executive committee. At BFA I am not aware of anything,” he said.

Fani said the money received from FIFA was for upkeep and the BFA executive committee was aware of the funds.

“It was the usual upkeep allowance and the conference material. We never knew that there was anything wrong,” he said.

Ndibi said their findings pointed to funds, which were unaccounted for by some associations.

But Fani said all the funds, including the FIFA Goal Project finances, were properly accounted. Swiss authorities are examining development grants made by FIFA around the world as part of their investigation. In particular, the investigators are looking at how the money was spent and whether there is any falsification of documents. The grants mainly go to national football associations and are often earmarked for new soccer pitches and related facilities, or for training programs. In Botswana, the BFA constructed the Lekidi Centre.

“The (Goal Project) budget was approved by FIFA and suppliers were paid through the FIFA office. Qatar never promised us money, but we requested for collaborations with the aim of developing Botswana football. We are clean. We did not do anything wrong,” Fani said.

Ndibi, however, said their investigations uncovered a sustained campaign, using vote buying, to keep certain leaders in positions.

“During local, COSAFA or CAF elections, we discovered that money exchanges hands in order to keep certain people aligned to powerful individuals, in power,” she said.

“We also found that in some countries, politicians were involved. Corruption is widespread in football.”

She claims there were failed efforts to bribe a BFA official in Cairo, Egypt. Ndibi said certain quarters did not want incumbent BFA president, Tebogo Sebego. 

“His election was a surprise to a lot of people,” Ndibi said.

She alleges some of the meetings where African associations were promised or given money took place in Sandton, South Africa. However, she said SAFA president, Danny Jordan refused to attend the Qatar meeting.

In their findings, Ndibi said most of the funds paid out were described as “development money” or as a “thank you”, presumably to paper over any suspicions.

“More information will soon be out regarding these dealings,” she said.

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