Top Fifa official quizzed in corruption case, released
June 8, 2019 | 7:20 PM
by Agencies
Ahmad is a FIFA vice-president, one of the most influential men in world football

Paris: The spectre of 2015 returned to haunt Fifa after Ahmad Ahmad, one of the world governing body’s seven vice-presidents, was detained for 12 hours for questioning by French police in a corruption investigation. He was arrested at 8.30 at the at the luxury Hotel Berri then released late in the evening.

A mere four years ago Swiss police, acting on extradition warrants from the United States, detained seven senior football officials including two Fifa vice-presidents in what became known as the FIFAGate scandal. More than 40 people were indicted, almost all have pleaded guilty and been banned from football while many are still awaiting sentence.

The scandal brought about the downfall of long-serving president Sepp Blatter and his replacement in 2016 by fellow Swiss Gianni Infantino. Only on Wednesday the re-elected Infantino had boasted to congress about the "credibility, trust and integrity," of his 'New Fifa' and promised that the "almost criminal" era of corruption and scandal would "never again" be tolerated.

Ahmad is a Fifa vice-president, one of the most influential men in world football, through his status as president of the African confederation (CAF). His leadership, the infighting and chaotic state of CAF were already a source of bsp; baffled amusement for the rest of the international game.

Ahmad, from Madagascar, was arrested at 8.30am at his hotel in Paris this morning on the orders of the central office for the fight against corruption and financial and fiscal infringements (OCLIF). The immediate focus of the inquiry was understood to concern a €1.063m sports kit contract signed in 2017 by CAF with the French company Tactical Steel.

This replaced a previous contract worth €321,000 with the Puma company.

A complaint against Ahmad's activities as CAF president had already been lodged with the FIFA ethics commission by the Amr Fahmy, the then secretary general. Fahmy was sacked within days and replaced by Moroccan Mouad Hajji. Ahmad denied any wrongdoing in office.

FIFA will seek to present the scandal as an African governance issue unconnected with the world federation and which should not be used by critics as an excuse to throw mud at it.

This was an image-saving tactic employed, albeit largely in vain, by the Blatter regime after the events of 2015. Successor Infantino will be furious at this turn of events both after his upbeat words yesterday but also because Ahmad's arrest threatens to tarnish the Opening Match launch tomorrow of the Women's World Cup at the Parc des Princes.

In response to the Ahmad arrest, a Fifa statement said:

Fifa has taken note of the alleged events concerning Mr Ahmad Ahmad, who is being questioned by the French authorities in relation to allegations related to his mandate while President of CAF.

Fifa is unaware of the details surrounding this investigation and is therefore not in a position to make any comment on it specifically.

Fifa is asking the French authorities for any information that might be relevant to investigations taking place within its Ethics Committee.

As a matter of due process, everyone has the right to the presumption of innocence, but as the FIFA President reiterated yesterday, Fifa is fully committed to eradicating all forms of wrongdoing at any level in football. Anyone found to have committed illicit or illegal acts has no place in football.

Fifa is now clean from the scandals that tarnished its reputation and this same determination should prevail in governing bodies such a confederations. Fifa will be at the forefront of ensuring that this is enforced by everyone involved in football.

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