By Paul Nicholson
June 6 – The privileged and protected world of African confederation president Ahmad Ahmad has come crashing down with his arrest at the Berri Hotel in Paris this morning where he has been staying during the FIFA Congress and in the run-up to the opening of the Women’s World Cup this weekend.
Officers from France’s Central Office for Combating Corruption and Financial and Tax Crimes (OCLCIFF) swooped on the five-star hotel this morning to detain Ahmad regarding an investigation that is reported to be linked to a contract broken by Ahmad with Puma in December 2017 and placed with French company Tactical Steel.
As first reported by Insideworldfootball, the Puma contract was worth €312,000 but dropped in favour of Tactical Steel buying the same equipment for $1,195,603. Tactical Steel is run by Romuald Seilier, a close friend of Loïc Gerand, the personal attaché of Ahmad.
The deal with Tactical Steel did not end there. To date it is estimated the French company has invoiced CAF almost $3 million with a number of payments requested by Seilier to be routed through a Turkish company called Serin Hidrafat Ltd and its account with ING bank.
The French authorities are believed to be investigating non-payment of taxes and criminal conspiracy to avoid tax duties. Tactical Steel is registered as a company in France and based in La Seyne-sur-Mer
While Ahmad is not a French citizen, Seilier and Gerand are. It is unclear whether police have detained them as well.
No official charges have been made against Ahmad but it seems likely that he will be detained in France while the investigation is taking place as there would be no guarantee of his return if he left the country. Most probably he will have to surrender his passport and remain under some form of house arrest.
FIFA issued a statement saying it was not in a position to make any comment “specifically” but that it “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.”
The governing body did however hint, but not confirm, that it had already opened its own investigations into the swathe of financial mismanagement allegations against Ahmad (he has also been subject to multiple accusations of sexual harassment), saying: “FIFA is asking the French authorities for any information that might be relevant to investigations taking place within its Ethics Committee.”
Concluding its statement, FIFA remarkably claimed it “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.”
Clearly its officials are not as “clean” as the organisation would have people believe and its reputation is once again tarnished.
Ahmad is probably the strongest confederation president supporter of FIFA president Gianni Infantino who relies on the African block for his power base. That has afforded Ahmad a level of protection as the accusations of malpractice against him from both outside his confederation and increasingly within his own CAF executive committee have mounted. Attending the CAF Congress on Tuesday in Paris, Infantino told delegates: “I know what’s happening at the moment and that there is a certain amount or turbulence…But I believe in Africa. Keep your cool, maintain solidarity… and try to find solutions.”
Words that smack of the sound of cover-up that could well come back to haunt Infantino as questions have increasingly been asked as to why FIFA has not acted in the face of the tsunami of accusations against Ahmad, especially the allegations of sexual harassment.
A Ugandan official who declined to give his name but who was attending FIFA’s women’s football symposium 30 minutes from where Ahamd was arrested, told Insideworldfootball: “If this is true it is terrible. It would have been better if he had been arrested in Africa. I have been following the story about Tactical Steel but don’t know too much more than what I have read. I only hope and pray he will clear his name. We have to give him the benefit of doubt until he is proved guilty.”
When Insideworldfootball broke the story exclusively about the financial irregularities we were given access to a number of documents that left no doubt of financial corruption. The Tactical Steel case is just one of multiple examples of Ahmad’s questionable spending of CAF’s money which included trips for African muslim presidents to the Umrah, the acquisition of multiple luxury vehicles and sending of money directly to CAF federation personal bank accounts. Links to those stories are below as well as documentation concerning Tactical Steel.
The Tactical Steel case has been actioned because it is a criminal case involving French citizens. The other accusations fall more into the jurisdiction of FIFA, including and perhaps most importantly the multiple allegations of sexual harassment. With a women’s symposium taking place in Paris focussed on the future of the game FIFA needs to address what it is a far more fundamental question over what it is really prepared to do for the protection of women working within the game.
Lid lifted on CAF boss Ahmad’s empire of corrupt deals and bought officials
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org