JAMES M DORSEY: The Asian Football Confederation, in a a terse statement that got its facts wrong, announced it had suspended general secretary Alex Soosay pending an investigation into allegations that he had sought to tamper with or hide documents related to an investigation into corruption and mismanagement first reported on this blog and in the Malay Mail.
In the statement, whose confusion suggested an attempt to pre-empt calls for a broader investigation, the AFC said Soosay had been “suspended by the AFC following media allegations which have recently surfaced concerning a case in 2012. A video statement conducted as part of a FIFA investigation was passed to media recently and the AFC has now been able to verify its authenticity.”
It said AFC deputy general secretary Windsor John would temporarily replace Soosay “whilst an internal investigation is conducted.”
In fact it took the AFC more than two weeks to collect a copy of a video tape on which the allegations were recorded from the date that they were disclosed by this blog and the Malay Mail.
On the tape and in a written statement, AFC finance director Bryan Kuan Wee Hoong asserted that Soosay had asked him in 2012 – at the time of a damning audit by PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) – to “tamper or hide” any documents related to Soosay.
The allegations have been denied by Soosay.
Kuan recorded his allegations against Soosay in July 2012 in a taped and written statement to FIFA security officer Michael John Pride who took the statements in his capacity as a private investigator rather than as a contracted FIFA security officer.
Pride did not pass Kuan’s statements to either FIFA or the AFC.
Kuan said on tape that he believed Soosay’s request was related to the PwC audit. He said he had made his statements to have a record should he ever be asked about the issue, not as part of a FIFA investigation.
The AFC, in the past three years, has sought to bury the audit which warned that multiple payments involving the banned former president, Mohammed Bin Hammam, could expose the AFC to charges of tax evasion, bribery, money laundering, and sanctions busting.
The payments included two transfers totalling $14m from a shareholder of Singapore-based World Sport Group (WSG) in advance of the signing of a $1bn master rights agreement with the AFC.
AFC president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa allowed Soosay, five days after Kuan’s allegations became public, to sit on the dais next to him and help run last month’s AFC Congress.
Kuan was also involved in the congress’s proceedings.
PwC recommended that the AFC seek legal counsel on the possibility of filing criminal and/or civil charges against Bin Hammam and on whether it could renegotiate or cancel the $1bn agreement with WSG.
It stated, referring to both Soosay and Kuan: “Our transaction review revealed that items sampled were, in most cases, authorised by the general secretary or deputy general secretary and the director of finance.
“As signatories these parties hold accountability for the authorisation of these transactions. We also note the Internal Audit and Finance Committees were aware of this practice.”
The AFC has sought to bury the PwC audit, which was limited in scope and resources, because a full investigation on the basis of its findings risked revealing alleged wide spread bribery and corruption in the way it conducted its business at the time of Bin Hammam’s presidency and could implicate multiple regional and national officials who were named in the audit.
It could potentially also force a cancellation or renegotiation of the WSG contract that was never put to tender.
Malay Mail executive editor Haresh Deol, in a recent editorial, said: “As Bin Hammam was slapped with a life ban from FIFA and quit all football related activities in December 2012, critics believe the (PwC) report has served its purpose. But what about the other revelations made by PwC?
“There is a lot of explaining to do. We are stakeholders and we demand answers. Silence is not an option.”
The AFC’s risk of being forced into a broader investigation is linked to the fact that the Malaysian attorney general has asked police to submit a report on the allegations of corruption and mismanagement within the AFC at the time of Bin Hammam.
Police sources told the Malay Mail that they hoped that the tape would further an investigation that has been lingering since Kuan, days after making his statements to Pride, reported to the police the alleged theft of documents from the AFC’s offices.
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James M Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies as Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, and a forthcoming book with the same title
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