June 24 – Constant Omari, for years one of African football’s most influential as well as controversial figures, has been suspended by FIFA for a year for breaking its ethics code.
Last week, after 18 years at the head of Congolese football, Omari called it a day and stepped down from the post after a career marked by claims of shady dealing and corruption.
Now we know why. We also know why he was barred last January from standing for election for the FIFA Council.
Omari, former first vice president of the Confederation of African Football who for a brief period ran the entire show when Ahmad Ahmad was kicked out, was found by FIFA to have received benefits from Lagardere during negotiations between the French media company and CAF.
In early 2019, Omari oversaw an amendment to the billion-dollar deal that CAF had made with Lagardere Sports in 2015. He is believed to have received in the region of €66,000, which FIFA has requested he pay as a fine.
Omari entered into a plea bargain arrangement with FIFA and in a statement FIFA said: “A formal investigation against Mr Omari was opened on 7 January 2021.”
“[It] concerned certain benefits accepted and received from Lagardere Sports, in relation to the negotiations that he conducted for an agreement between CAF and Lagardere Sports in connection with the commercialisation of certain TV rights licenced to the LCS company and to the collection of the latter’s outstanding debt.
“The negotiations, which were led by Mr Omari on behalf of CAF, resulted in contractual provisions that were particularly detrimental to CAF, causing significant financial damage to the confederation.”
“In this respect, the receipt of benefits created a conflict of interests that detracted from Mr Omari’s ability to perform his dues to CAF with integrity and in an independent and purposeful manner.”
Omari, a one-time FIFA reform official and key ally of FIFA president Gianni Infantino in his 2016 election campaign, was arrested in 2018 on suspicion of corruption and held for 24 hours in a public prosecutor’s office in Congo. Officials suspected him of embezzling money given to the federation by the government to fund the Congo national team but no charges were ever pressed.
At a press conference last week in Kinshasa, Omari insisted he was leaving “with my head held high.” Six days later and it has been hung in shame.
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