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The perfect storm

By Lars

The temperature is rising ahead of the Caf presidential election. Five candidates have emerged, and a billionaire businessman is the front runner. A former Caf exco member, Musa Bility, is accusing Gianni Infantino of undermining Caf’s independence for his own benefit.

By Pål Ødegård

Musa Hassan Bility, a Liberian politician and former member of Caf’s executive committee, and now banned by Fifa for 10 years, has sent an open letter to one of the favourites among the five candidates running to be elected as the president of Caf for the next four years, the South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe. The election takes place in March 2021 in Rabat, Morocco, but the deadline to present a candidate passed the 12th this month. Motsepe, the brother-in-law of the country’s president Cyrille Ramaphosa, has been rumoured to have been hand-picked by Fifa president Gianni Infantino to run. A handful of other Caf member associations have already officially endorsed him, most notably Nigeria’s football federation, which is led by the influential Amaju Pinninck, the former vice president of Caf.

Bility’s letter congratulates Motsepe for running, and emphasises he thinks he is the right candidate for the job. Yet, he gives a stark warning not to collaborate with Infantino, accusing the Fifa president of having meddled in vital Caf affairs by illegal means, leaving it dependent on handouts from Fifa for survival in return for political loyalty: 

Allow me to draw your attention to the fact that you will be seeking to take over at helm of CAF following the chaotic one term of an incumbent who dangerously bungled the administration of the organization, having been given carte blanche to do so by FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

You cannot therefore appear to lend credence to rumors that you come into this race as the favorite and preferred horse of the FIFA President, in effect bearing the ignominious tag of an “Infantino marionette”.

By now, you likely know that Infantino has his own legal woes in Switzerland where he has been criminally indicted by the State over his role in attempting to replicate the criminality that he has endorsed and encouraged in Africa, in his home country.

There is a misconception in Africa, that anyone seeking the CAF Presidency MUST have the express sanction and permission of FIFA and its President. This is in large part due to the fact that candidates have to undergo an Integrity test by the FIFA Ethics committee.

The Liberian politician goes on to criticise his former colleagues at Caf for being accomplices to the Fifa president’s schemes, while also accusing Infantino’s aide to have threatened him with sanctions if he didn’t accept a Fifa intervention into Caf:

“In Africa, the FIFA integrity test has been brazenly traded for blind, unwavering loyalty by Gianni Infantino, which is how the current CAF President remains in high office despite credible and serious allegations of misconduct and crime during his tenure.

Drawing from my own experience, everything was fine as long as I mindlessly voted according to FIFA dictates.

Needless to say, at the point where I started to question the loss and transfer of several hundred thousand dollars of my then FA’s grants from CAF to a shadowy Polish art gallery, I was a marked man.

By the time I took a stand against the re-colonization of CAF by FIFA through the infamous “hostile takeover” of August 2019, the Personal aide to Infantino had already pulled me aside to warn me that I faced the resuscitation of a dead rubber ethics case, and which was quickly activated by the co-dependent FIFA Ethics Committee and which led to my current 10-year ban.

Your own SAFA President Dr Danny Jordaan similarly attempted to show the independent streak that South Africans are famous for, but he was swatted back into place by the dark forces in CAF, which later led to his humiliating capitulation and appointment as CAF 3rd Vice President.”

Bility was banned from Fifa for 10 years for “guilty of having misappropriated Fifa funds, as well as having received benefits and found himself in situations of conflict of interest”. The accusation was that Bility had misappropriated a grant given by Fifa in 2013 as relief for the Ebola epidemic, which hit Liberia particularly hard. The former Caf exco member has denied any wrongdoing, and is currently appealing the verdict in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) where his appeal is due to be heard on 28 January 2021. The ban came shortly after Bility was the only member of Caf’s executive committee to object publicly against Caf submitting to let Fifa’s secretary general Fatma Samoura to run the organization for a six-month period. The same exco later terminated the intervention by not prolonging Samoura’s mandate, a decision which angered many in Zurich, and is given by some as the main reason for Ahmad`s current problems with the ethics committee. Samoura ordered an audit of Caf by PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC), who’s findings included gross lack of financial control and insufficient governance

Gianni Infantino is currently the subject of a criminal investigation in Switzerland, and has been reported to Fifa’s ethics committee for several breaches of the ethics code, including meddling in Caf’s affairs.

The Liberian businessman particularly laments Caf’s increased dependency on grants from Fifa for survival after a lucrative media contract with rights company Lagardere was torn up. Bility blames Infantino for this. Bility ends the letter with the sentence:

“As the soothsayer bid Julius Cesar to beware the ideas of March, I bid you beware the machinations of Gianni Infantino.”

Mamelodi Sundowns owner Patrice Motsepe is one of five confirmed candidates to run for the position as president of Caf, along with Jaques Anouma (Ivory Coast), Ahmed Yahya (Mauritania) and Augustin Senghor (Senegal). Incumbent Ahmad Ahmad is also running, despite a BBC report which stated that the current Caf president will soon be banned by Fifa’s ethics committee. According to our information, Ahmad is scheduled to be heard by Fifa Adjudication Chamber on 19 November. The verdict (numerous sources suggest a lengthy ban) might be served to him there and then or within a15-day period following his comparution. As Josimar has reported earlier, Infantino was highly influential in getting Ahmad elected in 2017, surprisingly beating the Cameroonian Issa Hayatou, who had reigned for 29 years. The Malagasy has been involved in several scandals during his period as Caf president. Most notably a huge deal with Tactical Steel, an obscure French company which had never dealt in football equipment before the Caf orders, as reported by Josimar. Ahmad was apprehended during the Fifa congress in Paris last year over this, but was released without charges. The investigation is still ongoing, according to Josimar’s sources.

When asked what motivated the Liberian to address Motsepe, he replied this to Josimar:

“I think he’s the best candidate. I just don’t think he is in the right company. I don’t even believe that they sincerely support him, and I’m afraid they’re just using him to give credibility to the race. I think he’s too independent for Gianni. Caf needs his business acumen, someone that can bring money and credibility back.”

“African member associations need to ally with other confederations, like Asia and Oceania. We need to be independent, and have our own program, and build proper infrastructure.”

Asked about the Cas case where he will try to overturn the ban, he tells Josimar this:

“I believe that Fifa did not prove in any way that I took any money from the Liberian football federation. I’m very confident to win, and I have a very competent lawyer and a strong case. Fifa base all their evidence on hear-say, and I’m certain I’ll be vindicated in the verdict. I want to join the fray, you know. I will be too late to run myself, but hopefully I can come back to help the next president.”

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