Last week, Fifa released detailed reasoning why Madagascar’s Ahmad Ahmad became the first Confederation of African Football (Caf) president to be banned from football.
Football’s world governing body had already revealed in November, when announcing his five-year ban, that the Fifa vice-president had breached codes relating to duty of loyalty, abuse of position and misappropriation of funds, among others.
It had said these involved the organisation of a religious pilgrimage to Mecca and his involvement in Caf’s dealings with the sports equipment company Tactical Steel but without providing further detail.
In the adjudicatory report it published on Thursday, Fifa explained – over the course of 59 pages – why it had taken its measures against Mr Ahmad, who is appealing the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the hope that he can overturn his ban and contest March’s Caf presidential elections.
- In taking advantage of his function as CAF President in order to favour the company intrinsically tied to one of his close associates … Mr Ahmad pursued a private aim and not the best interests of Caf.
In December 2017, Caf commissioned an obscure French company to supply sportswear for a forthcoming tournament despite Tactical Steel’s primary focus having long been the supply of gym equipment.
Key elements of the story have been well documented, such as the friendship between Tactical Steel owner Romuald Seillier and Mr Ahmad’s then attaché Loic Gerand being the premise upon which the later relationship with Caf would be built.
The Malagasy has repeatedly said his decision to engage Tactical Steel only came after he was mandated to oversee sportswear for the African Nations Championship (CHAN) at a meeting of Caf’s Executive Committee (ExCo) in November 2017.
But the Fifa report says: “This statement is in direct contradiction with several documents and the [auditors] reports’ findings indicating that Mr Ahmad had met and started negotiation with [Tactical Steel] as early as 9 October, even before being authorised to do so by the 16 November ExCo decision.”
In fact, both Mr Ahmad and Mr Gerand hosted Seillier in Cairo in October, says Fifa, whereupon negotiations were started.
Fifa’s report claimed Mr Ahmad made ‘untruthful statements’ to the ExCo – who were not informed of the relationship between Gerand and Seillier – in order to be entrusted with the mandate.
Highlighting the lack of a proper tendering process, Fifa also spoke of the decision to cancel a similar order with Puma costing $239,000 which was slightly less than Tactical Steel, who the report claims made ‘various unjustified overbillings’, charged for shipping costs alone.
“The total value of all the payments made by Caf to [Tactical Steel] within only one year was approximately $4.4m, an incredibly high amount for a company with virtually no experience in the distribution of sports equipment,” said Fifa.
Neither Seillier nor Gerand, whose refusal to co-operate with the Fifa investigation earned him a fine of just over $11,000, have ever responded to previous BBC requests for comment.
- The Panel finds that … Mr Ahmad has misappropriated Caf funds
While much has already been written about Tactical Steel, little has been said about payments totalling some $227,400 which were made to Mr Ahmad’s private bank account by Caf.
Between May 2017 and March 2018, Caf made four transfers totalling $54,700 to Mr Ahmad’s private bank account, says Fifa.
A further $172,700 was paid in cash – in eight different deposits made by Caf staff – to his personal account between June 2017 and May 2019.
“The reason and purpose of the transfers provided by Caf did not match with Caf’s accounting data pertaining to the disbursements to Mr Ahmad,” said Fifa, adding “it appears that the above mentioned bank transfers and cash payments were not related to the payment of the salary of Mr Ahmad.”
Mr Ahmad’s lawyer said the amounts ‘correspond to the payment, sometimes in cash, of his indemnities [daily allowances] for his Caf missions abroad’, a stance echoed by Caf’s former compliance officer who told Fifa the ‘deposits (were) made by Mr Ahmad to his personal account’.
Fifa did not accept this version of events.
“This explanation does not stand to reason since the referred payments are either wire transfers from Caf ($54,700) or deposits apparently made by Caf employees (S172,700) to Ahmad’s personal accounts and not cash deposits made personally by the latter,” opined Fifa, which questioned the absence of any supporting documentation.
- Mr Ahmad approved … the use of a significant amount of Caf resources for his private aims, thereby misappropriating funds and other assets aimed at developing football in Africa.
Fifa ruled that a religious pilgrimage, which only included Muslim presidents of African FA’s, costing just over $110,000 – all but $10,000 of which was paid for by Caf, even though it was presented as an invitation by Ahmad – breached rules.
The trip witnessed 15 FA presidents join Ahmad, also a Muslim, travel from their respective home nations to Caf’s headquarters in Egypt prior to travelling to Saudi Arabia, where they visited religious sites in both Mecca and Medina.
“The Panel considers that Mr Ahmad had a private interest in inviting the Muslim presidents of federations to a once-in-a-lifetime religious event,” said the report. “The first obvious interest was to secure the presidents’ loyalty, notably in future political struggles and the upcoming Caf elections.”
Fifa ruled that Ahmad’s financial contribution of $10,000 towards the trip qualified ‘as a direct gift to the federations’ presidents’, in contravention of its statutes.
Fifa also deemed Ahmad’s version of events regarding the trip as ‘unlikely’, with one reason given for the presence of the Muslim presidents in Cairo being that they were on official Caf business.
“There are no supporting documents indicating that actual Caf official meetings were scheduled, organised and took place in Cairo to discuss football related issues, such as agenda, minutes, preparatory of follow up emails, text messages, bookings of conference rooms, meeting notes, printouts,” Fifa wrote.
Described the cost of the trip as ‘staggering’, the report ventured that the exact amount was likely to be higher ‘due to the general and concerning lack of supporting documentation provided’.
Ahmad’s attorney compared Fifa’s investigatory report, upon which the adjudicatory body determines its sanctions, to a conspiracy theory made of several layers of baseless accusations and requested that his client be acquitted from all charges.
Ahmad – whose combined salary as both president of Caf and a Fifa vice-president amounted to some $860,000 – is hoping to contest March’s presidential elections but needs the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn his ban to launch an unlikely comeback.