Soccer chiefs targeted

20 December 2012 - 02:06

THE Hawks are poised to arrest several prominent soccer officials in connection with the alleged R8-million match-fixing scandal involving Bafana Bafana games.

The arrests will "shake South African football to its core", according to Hawks spokesman Paul Ramaloko.

Police sources said the arrests would be made within the next 10 days or early in the new year, but Ramaloko refused to confirm this.

A special Hawks team, working with international law enforcement agencies, is sifting through documents recently seized in raids on several SA Football Association offices, the homes of Safa officials, and the offices of foreign football associations.

Ramaloko said the Hawks had been investigating the case since August but a complaint of corruption was made only this week.

A criminal investigation started only yesterday.

The investigation is linked to the suspensions on Sunday of five senior Safa officials, including president Kirsten Nematandani.

Other officials suspendedwere acting CEO Dennis Mumble, national teams manager Lindile "Ace" Kika, referees boss Adeel Carelse and Bafana team manager Barney Kujane.

Safa insisted that the five were not implicated in the allegations of match-fixing made in a report by world soccer controlling body Fifa, and neither were Bafana players.

The men were suspended after Safa received a report from Fifa about four warm-up matches Bafana played ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Suspicions around the matches - against Colombia, Guatemala, Thailand and Bulgaria - surfaced in June last year.

It has since been established that a convicted match-fixer, Wilson Raj Perumal, had used a crime syndicate called Football4U to fix the results of the matches with the help of referees he had suborned.

Perumal, a Singaporean jailed in Finland last year, was allegedly the frontman for an Asian betting syndicate. He had arranged the matches for Safa.

Following the Safa suspensions, the organisation's head of security, Mlungisi Ncame, and acting president Mvelo Nonkonyana, made a complaint of corruption at the Booysens, Johannesburg, police station.

Nonkonyana said Safa wanted to "tread carefully" and had waited for the Fifa report before acting.

He said it was Safa that alerted the Hawks in August "but we couldn't go public because we didn't want to give unparalleled statements".

Ramaloko said it was believed that R8-million was paid to senior Safa officials to ensure that Bafana Bafana won their four warm-up matches in 2010.

"During several meetings between this match-fixer and Safa officials, a sum of R8-million was offered to the officials," he alleged.

"The match-fixer is alleged to have offered to supply certain referees to [officiate at] the matches to ensure that Bafana Bafana won."

He would not name the Safa officials but said "they hold extremely senior positions within the association".

He said the Hawks were working with Interpol and senior officials of several foreign football associations.

"We have roped in Interpol because a number of the suspects are based at several different international football associations, whose executives we are working with," said Ramaloko.

"Though the investigation still has a way to go, arrests are going to be made. The suspects work within various [organisations in] the South African football fraternity."

Ramaloko said the questioning of suspects would take place soon.

"Our investigation is [at a] sensitive stage. Because of the impact that this will have, we don't want to jump the gun or show too many of our cards just yet," he said.

"Let's just say that the documents we have in our possession and are continuing to obtain are filled with very useful information."

"I am shocked and dismayed by this development," Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said. "If found guilty they must meet the full wrath of the law. This is a disgrace; we must deal decisively with the perpetrators to educate future generations that corruption will not be tolerated."

Acting Safa CEO Mumble denied on Facebook that he had been suspended and said the "amateur interlopers at Safa have now managed to turn this whole thing on its head". Safa said the five suspended officials had been placed on "special paid leave".

"No matter how hard we try to fix this association, we just can't get it right," Mumble wrote.

"I reported the incident to Fifa and I am the one who asked for this investigation! I'm not in the office because I have to prepare for this commission as a key witness.

"Now I'm in the unenviable position that I have to ask my attorneys to find out why my name was so deliberately bandied about in this way.

"These fools are taking our football to the gutter. And yes, I'm probably party to the minimisation of Safa for having tolerated the buffoonery for far too long."

Kika was not available for comment; Carelse referred queries to Safa.

Kujane has promised to cooperate with the inquiry Safa is expected to appoint He has been temporarily replaced as Bafana manager by Levy Ramajoe, his former assistant.