FIFA to lift Sierra Leone ban

FIFA will consider lifting Sierra Leone’s suspension from international football after the corruption case against the country’s FA President, Isha Johansen, is concluded in court.

Last week Thursday, FIFA officials, including Secretary General Fatma Samoura, met with Johansen and the Sierra Leone government to address the issue.

 

“Fifa will wait for the completion of the trial before further measures can be considered, including the lifting of the suspension, if deemed appropriate,” said a Fifa statement.

 

Johansen is facing trial along with Sierra Leone FA (SLFA) General Secretary Christopher Kamara. Both deny the charges.

 

The Sierra Leone government sent a high-level delegation, including vice-president Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, attorney general and Minister of Justice Priscilla Schwartz and Lansana Gberie, Sierra Leone’s ambassador to Switzerland.

 

Sports minister Ibrahim Nyelenkeh did not attend.

Fifa suspended Sierra Leone two weeks ago because of third-party interference in the running of the SLFA, saying that the ban would be lifted once Johansen and Kamara are reinstated.

 

The ban came after the country’s anti-corruption commission (ACC) set aside Johansen and Kamara and handed over control of the SLFA to vice-president Brima Mazola Kamara and assistant secretary general Abdul Rahman Swarray.

 

The ACC says that under Sierra Leone law, both Johansen and Kamara must vacate their posts until their case on corruption-related charges concludes.

The alleged corruption charges against Johansen were drastically reduced in court early this week from ten to three, and from four to three for Kamara.

Sierra Leone’s Africa Cup of Nations double-headers with Ghana, which were set to be played between 11-14 October, had to be cancelled and will not be rescheduled because of the suspension.

 

Other outstanding issues that have led to a long-running dispute within the SLFA were discussed during the Zurich meeting and resolutions were taken.

These include a key match-fixing investigation of 15 players and officials who have been indefinitely suspended since 2014, the conduct of integrity tests on elected officials and a roadmap that will lead to the election of new SLFA executive committee.

 

The match-fixing investigation, which has been repeatedly delayed, will take place between in Freetown next month.

 

“Both the government of Sierra Leone and FIFA agreed to have a zero-tolerance policy for match-fixing/manipulation and other fraudulent and corrupt practices in football,” added the FIFA statement.

 

“The government of Sierra Leone committed to appoint its new representative to the Task Force for Sierra Leone, which also includes representatives from FIFA, CAF and the SLFA, and to ensure all the necessary support for the deployment of the Sierra Leone inquiry group to conduct the match-fixing investigation from 4 to 9 November 2018.”

 

“Both the government of Sierra Leone and FIFA expressed their full commitment to the road map as agreed by the Task Force.”

 

“In this context, the FIFA administration will draw up a concrete calendar to ensure that the necessary measures are taken before conducting the election of a new SLFA executive committee in the shortest possible time frame.

 

“These measures include the revision of the SLFA statutes to ensure that eligibility checks are carried out on elected officials and that a proper regulatory framework for the conduct of democratic and independent elections is introduced.”

 

The statement added that the government has agreed to investigate the unauthorised withdrawal of funds from the SLFA’s bank account following the suspension, and to ensure that any unjustified appropriation is immediately corrected.

 

Mazola Kamara has admitted to utilising part of US$50,000 accessed from an existing SLFA account but insists he has done nothing wrong.

“The SLFA is run by an executive committee not by an individual. We took decision to withdraw some amount from the $50,000,” Kamara told BBC Sport.

 

“We’ve used the money to pay backlog salaries to secretariat staff, pay utility bills, pay custom duties for 1000 balls received from CAF, and pay custom duties for Leone Stars jerseys among other things.”

 

“We have done nothing wrong as the money was given to run the SLFA,” he concluded.

 

FIFA has asked the acting SLFA officials to return the money.

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