KINSHASA: Constant Omari Selemani, a member of the FIFA Council, senior figure in African football and president of the football association of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FECOFA), has been arrested along with three other senior officials in an embezzlement inquiry writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Also arrested for questioning were Sports Ministry secretary-general Barthelemy Okito, FECOFA’s second vice-president Theobald Binamungu and finance director Roger Bondembe.
Omari, a 60-year-old railway construction engineer, was voted on to the governing council (formerly executive committtee) of world football federation FIFA in 2015.
He is also a vice-president with the Confederation of African Football and has served on organising committees for the Africa Cup of Nations, the Under-20 African Championship and club competitions, plus management of the CAF club licensing system.
Omari has also been a member of the CAF disciplinary board and the FIFA disciplinary committee as well as having been a member of the reform commission chaired by Swiss lawyer Francois Carrard.
The trio were detained on Tuesday on the orders of the the Kinshasa-Matete Court of Appeal in response to a request from the General Prosecutor’s Office. The investigation is being run by Luzolo Bambi, the head of state’s special adviser on the fight against corruption.
A statement from Bambi’s office said the trio were suspected of misuse of funds and embezzlement of around $1m on behalf of national and club teams of the DRC.
Bambi’s department is also looking for the president of the Congolese Olympic Committee who is considered to be on the run.
The arrests came only weeks after a row between FECOFA and the Ministry of Sports over demands by the federation for more than $1m to fund organisation of four recent national and youth team and club matches.
The Minister of Sports considered the amount required as “exorbitant.”
The arrests were followed by the immediate suspension of the national championship by the management commission of the National Football League (LINAFOOT).
A statement said: “LINAFOOT regrets to inform public opinion in general and in particular the clubs engaged in the 23rd edition of the national championship, that in solidarity with the president of the FECOFA and its two vice-presidents, humiliated and unjustly deprived of their freedom, it is suspending all activities until further notice.”
Omari supported Gianni Infantino in his successful campaign to become FIFA president in 2016 and also switched sides to back the ousting last year of long-serving Issa Hayatou as president of CAF by Madagascar’s Ahmad Ahmad.
FIFA commented only that it was “following the matter.”