By Paul Nicholson
June 6 – CAF president Ahmad Ahmad, arrested at his Paris hotel in an 8.30am swoop this morning, was released in the evening though will reportedly have to remain in France under house arrest.
Ahmad’s camp claim he now has his passport, that he will attend the opening game of the Women’s World Cup tonight and that he will likely travel to Egypt tomorrow. Legal opinion suggest he is unlikely to be able to travel if the criminal investigation is still on-going and that it is more likely that his movement will be restricted to France.
The Confederation of African Football boss was seized by Officers from France’s Central Office for Combating Corruption and Financial and Tax Crimes (OCLCIFF) at the luxury Hotel de Berri where he was staying for the FIFA Congress along with FIFA Council colleagues.
He was questioned under a new French procedure termed “free custody”, described as being within a slightly more comfortable environment than more traditional criminal interviews but still under police custody, Crucially, he was not questioned as a witness to a crime.
So far there has been no detail of criminal charges being brought against Ahmad, who is not a French citizen but from Madagascar. The police investigation is believed 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 cancelled 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.
Sellier has been arrested and it is understood he is currently being interviewed in Marseilles.
Ahmad could potentially face charges of facilitating criminal conspiracy to avoid taxes and defraud the French government.
Ahmad’s arrest compounded a chaotic week of African football politics with the confederation ordering the second leg of the Champions League final to be replayed having originally awarded the title to Esperance after Wydad Casablanca walked off and refused to return to the pitch in protest against the non-working VAR system.
With that decision still sending shockwaves through African football, news that its president – already engulfed by multiple corruption and sexual harassment allegations – had been arrested sent further waves of distrust in Ahmad’s leadership thoughout the continent.
CAF sources say that there is now a growing belief within Ahmad’s increasingly critical CAF executive committee that Ahmad must stand down to allow the confederation to prepare for its AFCON championship in Egypt that kicks off June 21. It is hard to see how he could maintain management duties while confined to France and potentially fighting criminal charges.
The senior vice president who would step in should Ahmad stand down or be removed is Nigeria’s Amaju Pinnick. Pinnick had already left Paris for Lagos when news of Ahmad’s arrest broke. It is understood he is returning to Paris for a series of urgent CAF meetings.
The position of FIFA is still to be made clear. The obvious course of action for the world governing body would be to suspend Ahmad while their Ethics body completes its own investigation – which it has now alluded to being in progress without directly confirming so. The fact that FIFA has refused to act to protect women who have reported multiple incidents of sexual harassment by Ahmad is shocking enough and makes something of a mockery of its own women’s symposium just completed in Paris and which was addressed by FIFA president Gianni Infantino this morning who neatly sidestepped and reference to safeguarding issues and protection of women working in football.
The longer FIFA refuses to act the louder the calls for real change become and the stronger the public belief (and within football) that FIFA’s talk of being a ‘clean’ organisation is just window dressing by a financially bloated organisation which has not learned the lessons of its past or is showing any real inclination to do so.
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