/ 11 January 2013

Safa match-fixing: The case of the missing laptop

Leslie Sedibe says that South African Football Association officials are looking for a scapegoat.
Leslie Sedibe says that South African Football Association officials are looking for a scapegoat.

Former chief executive officer of the South African Football Association (Safa) advocate Leslie Sedibe has disputed claims made in the explosive report on match-fixing by football's international governing body Fifa that he "lost" his laptop, preventing its investigators from studying his emails.

"By prior arrangement with Safa, I was in possession of my laptop after my departure," Sedibe told the Mail & Guardian. "When requested to do so, I arranged for the laptop to be returned to Safa, where it was received by the chief financial officer."

Finance director Gronie Hluyo, who has been working out his notice along with his entire department after Safa's precarious finances were handed over to auditors Ernst & Young, said he did not receive the laptop. "I will have to check with all the members of my department to see if they received the laptop."

Fifa stated in its report that Sedibe, who is now the chief executive of Section 21 organisation Proudly South African, signed a contract with the Singaporean company Football 4U, which was linked to "notorious match-fixer Wilson Perumal Raj". Several pre-World Cup 2010 international friendly matches have been cast under suspicion after referees were provided – and paid – by Football 4U.

"Sedibe is a lawyer and it is felt that, with his legal experience and training, more due diligence should normally have been carried out to find out who was behind Football4U before entering into an agreement that fundamentally breached Fifa statutes," the report said. "Sedibe's records of this period were on [the missing] laptop. This is unfortunate, because more evidence may have been found to prove what was happening within Safa at this time."

Sedibe said that he had not been alerted at any stage to the fact that Football4U or Raj had previously been involved in illegal activities.

Delegated responsibility
"I relied on those who were far more experienced than me at Safa and to whom I had delegated responsibility to ensure that qualified and accredited referees be appointed as part of arranging the international friendlies in a Fifa-accredited programme," he said. "I took no part in the selection of these referees."

Sedibe was at Safa for a year but quit after claiming he was being stabbed in the back.

Hawks spokesperson Paul Ramaloko confirmed that they were conducting an investigation into the allegations. "We are not really using that [the Fifa] report. We are conducting our own investigation," he said.

Sedibe said he was concerned that he had been excluded from the internal inquiry. "Those individuals in charge of organising the inquiry have an obvious conflict of interest and clearly would not like an outcome [that] suggests any impropriety by any one of them."

It would be convenient for the current Safa executive to try to make him a scapegoat since he was no longer involved with Safa, said Sedibe. "Fortunately, documents in the possession of my attorney confirm that I was not involved in any respect in the process of appointing the referees, save for the recommendation and final approval [that] was placed before me by [Lindela 'Ace'] Kika, who was the chairperson of the technical committee of referees representing the referees committee. I am not aware of any police investigation, but if there is one I and my attorney will offer our full co-operation."

The Fifa investigation was conducted by its head of security at the time, Chris Eaton, who is a former Interpol police officer and is considered an important player in the fight against match fixing. Eaton has taken up an appointment at the Qatar-based International Centre for Sport Security. "I can't comment because I am subject to confidentiality on the matter," Eaton said.

Safa spokesperson Dominic Chimhavi said because the report was conducted by former employees of Fifa, it was not considered an official document. Some Safa officials believed the report lacked credibility because none of the referees had been interviewed.

This week, five of the football body's national executive committee, including its president Kirsten Nematandani, were reinstated. They were suspended two weeks ago by a hastily convened Safa emergency committee.