FIFA CORRUPTION WEB ENGULFS LIBERIA
Bility and ECMs chop Fifa Ebola grant of US$50K; will Fifa ethics committee probe Infantino’s ‘ally’?
Danesius Marteh, firstname.lastname@example.org
Liberia Football Association (LFA) President Musa Hassan Bility has admitted to a corruption web of how he and executive committee members (ECMs) divided a US$50,000 grant sent by Fifa to support the fight against Ebola.
Bility’s open confession, which was made on Fabric 101.1FM’s Weekend Sports on March 11 without any coercion or intimidation, violates Fifa code of conduct and the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the LFA and Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNCRS).
During the heat of the 2014 Ebola pandemic in West Africa, football’s world governing body—Fifa gave US$50,000 to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone respectively, from its solidarity fund, to support the fight against Ebola.
Then President Joseph Sepp Blatter made the proposal during a finance committee meeting on 25 September 2014 after Fifa formally joined forces with the United Nations (UN) to fight Ebola on September 11, 2014.
FrontPageAfrica (FPA) understands that Fifa mandated that the money be spent in solidarity with a local UN initiative and or through a recognized health institution, prompting the LFA to seek a partnership with a non-governmental organization.
The LFA, represented by then secretary-general Alphonso Armah (deceased), entered into a partnership MOU with the LNRCS, represented by then secretary-general Fayiah Tamba, on 10 February 2015.
The US$50,000 grant, according to the MOU, should have been used to implement the desire goals of Fifa by helping to eradicate Ebola from the three countries.
Twenty five thousand United States dollars (US$25,000) should have been used for all operational matters, such as transportation, volunteers, Lone Star players and LFA staff allowances, lodging and feeding, etc., for all while US$25,000 should have been used for the purchase of paramedics.
According to the four-page MOU, the partners should have created Ebola awareness messages with Fifa emphasis in three of the 15 counties (rural Montserrado, Grand Cape Mount and Margibi in Liberia), with LNRCS creating the awareness format and programs.
It mandated the LNRCS to create a technical work plan and implementation procedure since it is highly versed with disaster operation and have a daylong workshop with the LFA technical team for better understanding of its implementation.
The LFA and LNRCS should have had periodic technical meeting to review level of work done and to be done with Fifa flag and other logos, as well as LNRCS emblem, flown and displayed at all of the awareness programs.
The partners also agreed to use selected LFA staff, former Lone Star players and LNRCS volunteers in the implementation of the awareness within the three counties.
But it has appeared that the MOU was thrown in the dustbin by Bility and partners-in-crime minutes after the LFA received the money from Fifa and there are also indications that fictitious receipts were prepared by the finance department.
“We and the president of the Sierra Leone [Football] Association [Isha Johansen] made the request for 50,000 dollars [to Fifa]. What we did [when the money came], we called the executive committee members and senior managers of the administration.
“Here is 50,000 dollars. We will give you X, Y & Z. Go in your communities and do anything you can do to help the cause of Ebola. And it is [distribution and reports] recorded in our books,” said Bility, who didn’t say how much
was given to each ECM.
The LNRCS, which has been engulfed in its own Ebola scandals, has repeatedly said it can’t account for the Fifa grant and has referred our sports editor to the LFA.
A review of the MOU shows that the Red Cross should have contributed US$3,136 to the four-month (February to May 2015) sensitization and preventive awareness campaign.
So can the Red Cross give an account of their reported stewardship in the various communities?
“You see. You are getting this thing wrong. The fact that we had an agreement with the Red Cross doesn’t speak to the fact that we gave money to the Red Cross. When we received the 50,000 [USD], we set-up various means at which we can disburse this money. And when the money came to us, we used the means that was most appropriate to us.
“We didn’t tell you that we gave Red Cross any money. We agreed to give them money but we decided not to give it to them. We didn’t go to them to give us fake receipts. We had various partners and we decided which one to choose to give the money to. We just gave Fifa options as to where we should possibly use the money,” Bility justified.
Rochell Woodson, who is contesting a December 27, 2016 expulsion by congress at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, revealed that Bility gave each member US$1,500 and took US$35,000.
Woodson, who said she and Maxwell Kemayah didn’t receive, called on Fifa to conduct a forensic audit of all its projects because the LFA has continuously submitted fake receipts.
“At that time, I was in the United States when that money was given. It was even the same Isha Johansen that told me that she received US$50,000 [from Fifa]. And when I asked the president of the Liberia Football Association, he denied it several times.
“Later, I had to tell him that Isha had told me that Sierra Leone had received their money. So later, he said the money was distributed among executive committee members and because we were two executive committee members that were not in the country, we wouldn’t have gotten our share.
“So, that money wasn’t used for the intended purpose. That US$50,000 was
part of my complaint and I said to Fifa to do a forensic audit because the LFA produces fake receipts. I was the co-chairperson of finance committee and I am speaking with facts.
“And I can tell you that, if they do a forensic audit in regards to lot of their Fifa FAPs, they will definitely know that the money expanded was not used for the intended purpose,” Woodson told Fabric 101.1FM on March 11.
Henry Flomo was LFA communications director when the MOU was inked and also served as master of ceremonies during a formal media presentation.
“I am in possession of the MOU between the LFA and Red Cross. That MOU spelled out how the project would have been carried out. To hear that the president decided at the time that the executive committee members be given money and then go in their various communities to do what they can do sounds a foolish,” said Flomo on the sports show.
FPA contacted all ECMs, except vice president Cassell Anthony Kuoh, alias Tim Borrol and Anthony McClain, (who was detained in the United States of America on September 16, 2016 and awaiting trial on wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud) by text, Facebook or email on March 11 and received the below responses.
“I do a lot of transactions within the LFA as vice president for administration. It is now two years. So I can’t remember that [particular] transaction that the president is talking about. But you can contact the LFA finance department to continue your investigation,” said Musa Shannon via mobile phone on March 11 at 16:16 GMT.
“Well, you know I am not clothed with the authority to give out financial information. You will need to speak to [LFA treasurer] Jallah D. Corvah,” said Ansu Dulleh, who is the competitions committee chairman and ‘LFA Prime Minister’, on March 11 at 16:04 GMT.
On the same day, Wallace Weiah texted at 21:08 GMT: “Sorry Marteh, I can’t subject myself to your inquiry. I listened to Bility and I want us take it as he said it.”
“Hi Mr. Marteh, I am a regular listener to your popular Saturday radio sports program; unfortunately, I was attending a church meeting and did not listen to the program.
“However, salient issue raised in your email message would be addressed at an appropriate time convenience to both of us. Thanks for your contact, which clearly demonstrates professional journalism, wrote Samuel Karn by email on March 13 at 08:47 GMT.
“Dear Mr. Marteh, I received your communication sent to me on Saturday, March 11 at which time you requested report on funds received for Ebola.
The executive committee, through its standing committee, makes reports at her regular meetings at which time financial reports are reviewed when necessary.
“These reports are comprehensively made to congress as stipulated in the LFA statues. Many thanks,” wrote Uriah Glaybo, who chairs the medical committee, by email on March 13 at 09:25 GMT.
“Sir, I believe that the LFA, through the executive committee and the secretary-general will respond. CAB,” wrote Ciatta Bishop by email on March 13 at 11:16 GMT.
“So we are making report to whom now? Danesius, you have to be professional and stop accusing me OK. Go ahead and write whatever you want to write against me. You have all the right to do what you want to.
“[I am] waiting to see in the papers. I also have a little right. Let's go. Threat is the least thing in my life, my Pekin,” wrote Klayee in a Talk Football chat room on Facebook when he was asked by me, Sylvester Worwee and Ansu Keita between 20:27 to 20:40 GMT on March 13.
Corvah, whom Dulleh and Shannon asked our reporter to contact, evaded the real issue like the duo.
“Danesius, we have gone over this before. The LFA have a media consultant, who is responsible to work with journalists regarding information from the press. I am kindly asking you to please contact him if you need information from the LFA,” Corvah replied to a Facebook inquiry on March 11 at 22:32 GMT.
But FPA didn’t get a response from Dee Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr., Sheba Brown and Matthew P. Smith as we went to press on March 13.
An unwarranted quest for money
In July 2016, the LFA paid US$19,500 to the ECMs as honorariums while employees, who were owed for four months, were paid two months but Bility said there was nothing illegal about the payment.
In April 2010, the LFA paid more than US$8,000 as honorarium to 18 ECMs for four years respectively.
At a Sports Writers Association of Liberia (Swal) debate on March 13, 2014 ahead of the Buchanan congress, ECMs seeking reelection justified receiving the payment while those, like LISCR FC President Mustapha Raji and Georgian FC president Wilmot Smith, pledged to wave theirs when elected.
The LFA denied making the payment of US$576,000 when the news was first reported by FPA.
What does Fifa code of ethics say?
Woodson’s disclosure versus Bility’s revelation is a violation of the 2012 Fifa code of ethics.
Chapter 21 (bribery and corruption) prohibits the misappropriation of Fifa assets, regardless of whether carried out directly or indirectly through, or in conjunction with, intermediaries or related parties.
Statutes of limitation
As a general rule, breaches of the provisions of the code (according to section four, chapter 12) may no longer be prosecuted after a lapse of 10 years but prosecution for bribery and corruption is not subject to such a limitation period.
The ethics committee can pronounce the sanctions described in the code of ethics, disciplinary code and statutes on the persons bound by it.
The LFA has been accused of forging receipts sent to Fifa to justify the use of the US$50,000 but chapter 17 (forgery and falsification) forbids the forging of document, falsifying an authentic document or using a forged or falsified document.
Woodson, who has already written Fifa secretary-general Fatma Samoura and Caf secretary-general Hicham El Amrani, can also report any potential breach of the code to the secretariat of the investigatory chamber of the ethics Committee.
Bility, who was barred from contesting in the 2016 Fifa presidential elections for integrity reasons, publicly supported Prince Ali but phoned Monrovia after the elections in February that he played a pivotal role in Gianni Infantino’s victory.
Infantino and Bility were in Johannesburg, South Africa for a gathering of African FA presidents from February 21-22 and attended the 58th birthday party of Dr. Philip Chiyangwa in Harare on February 23.
Dr. Chiyangwa is Zimbabwe Football Association and president of the Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa).
Bility is supporting Malagasy Football Federation president Ahmad Ahmad for president in the Caf elections on March 16.
Infantino is reported to have "post-election differences with Caf president Issa Hayatou, which are irreconcilable”, according to Nigeria Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick.
And it is believed that the Swiss-Italian is supporting Admad but Infantino has said he has no influence on the elections.
"It is up to the Caf members to elect their own president. It is not up to the Fifa president to say anything about that. Whatever the Caf members decide will be the right decision and I will support whatever decision is taken," said Infantino.
Dr. Chiyangwa also invited other African FA chairmen outside of Cosafa, which will be probe during the Caf executive committee meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
So it is now up to Cornel Borbely and his investigatory chamber of the ethics committee to examine Woodson’s disclosure versus Bility’s revelation.
And it remains to be seen how many birthday parties Infantino will attend during his four-year tenure.
Disclaimer: Danesius Marteh is a sports editor at FrontPageAfrica but the managing editor, Rodney Sieh, fears a libelous or slanderous lawsuit from Bility or those mentioned in the story. Convinced about his facts, which was shared with Sieh (and sent to us) and annoyed by Sieh’s unnecessary journalistic bottlenecks or rules of engagement, Marteh has kindly asked to use our medium.