FIFA legal experts on Wednesday made a comprehensive presentation on the Asiagate scandal, before secretary-general Jerome Valcke in Zurich, Switzerland, in a key development as the curtain comes down on this long drawn-out saga.
The presentation at Fifa headquarters started at 5.15pm, Zimbabwe time, after the organisation’s legal experts had spent the Easter weekend perusing documents on Asiagate that were filed by Zifa two weeks ago.
Valcke has been tasked by the Fifa executive, which discussed the subject at its meeting in Zurich on March 20-21, to close the chapter on a saga that has rumbled on for more than three years.
The Fifa executive committee ruled that sanctions imposed on all players and officials, entangled in the Asiagate match-fixing saga, cannot be endorsed until Zifa complies fully with the laws governing football or the world football governing body advises otherwise.
The position was taken in default after repeated requests by Fifa organs, for Zifa to provide documents to back the sanctions imposed on players and officials, were ignored leading the world football governing body to issue a final request, on February 18, and give the local mother body a 10-day window period to comply with that request.
Valcke, who was mandated to “conclusively deal with the matter without any further prejudice to the players and officials” decided against an immediate implementation of the Fifa executive committee position in the wake of the arrival of documents on Asiagate, in two bags sent by Zifa, just after a position had been taken on the issue.
The first bag, weighing 14kgs and sent by DHL from Harare on Monday, March 18, arrived in Zurich on March 21, on the day Fifa executive committee members were concluding their meeting, while the other bag, weighing 21kgs and sent from Harare by DHL, on Thursday, March 21, arrived in Zurich four days after the indaba.
The delay in the implementation of the position taken by the Fifa executive committee, at their meeting in Zurich on March 20-21, in the wake of the arrival of the documents whose unavailability had led to a position being taken, doesn’t certainly suggest that confidential leaks, published in this newspaper last week, were “mere speculation.”
A transcript of the Fifa executive committee indaba’s discussion on Asiagate, which has been obtained by The Herald, is an official report of what transpired in that indaba and cannot be altered by anyone, not least anyone who is not a member of that committee.
Critically, the fact that Fifa executive committee didn’t endorse the sanctions imposed on a host of individuals by Zifa, at their meeting on March20-21, is in itself a very powerful statement, and confirms the position we reported, taken from the transcript of the organisation’s executive committee deliberations, in this newspaper last week which read:
“Fifa Exco (executive committee) that met in Zurich on 20-21 March 2013, decided that after Zifa failed, despite repeated reminders, to furnish the Legal Affairs Department with a complete transcript of their Disciplinary proceeding against players and officials sanctioned in October 2012, the following must obtain:
“(i) Players and/or officials’ suspension is and cannot be sanctioned by Fifa in the interest of Fair Play. Zifa have been given the opportunity to avail all the relevant documentation pertaining to the matter, but have not done so since the first communication over the issue six (6) months ago, a paper trail of communication on file show.
“(iii) Until Fifa advises otherwise, or Zifa fully complies with the provisions of the football laws, the matter remains unenforceable.
“The ExCo registered their total dismay and unhappiness at the conduct, or lack of it, of Zifa in providing the necessary documentation in a matter they were supposed to have heard and tried, leaving us in doubt of whether the matter was handled according to the provisions of the law.
“(iv) The General Secretary of Fifa was, however, instructed to CONCLUSIVELY DEAL WITH THE MATTER WITHOUT ANY FURTHER PREJUDICE TO THE PLAYERS AND OFFICIALS.”
While its implementation was influenced, to a large extent, by developments that followed that meeting, especially the arrival of two bags of documents that Fifa had been crying out for, since October last year, that position is likely to still provide the template by which a final decision will be taken, either before, but not later than the 63rd Fifa Congress in Mauritius on May 30-31.
Octavian Bivolaru, Legal counsel, disciplinary and governance of the Fifa Legal Affairs Division, yesterday gave The Herald a detailed insight into the twists and turns that have followed the Asiagate drama, with particular emphasis on what they were doing to bring the case to finality.
It explains why Valcke didn’t communicate the Fifa executive committee’s position on Asiagate to Zifa and how the arrival of the two batches of documents, sent by the local mother body two weeks ago, played a part in extending a time-frame to the conclusion of this case.
“The Legal department of Fifa, who are going through the Asiagate files sent last month, met with Jerome Valcke to update him on the issue,” Bivolaru said yesterday.
“The meeting was at 1515GMT on Wednesday.
“The department said they were progressing well but had problems finding the Disciplinary hearing transcript for the affected players and officials. So far, there has not been evidence of anyone ever brought before a properly constituted Disciplinary Committee.
“According to the documentation we have, it would appear the judicial bodies of Zifa are Disciplinary Committee, Appeals Committee and Court of Arbitration in Sport, (Art 51 of Zifa Constitution), that Appeals Committee shall hear appeals from Disciplinary Committee that are not declared final (cf 53.3 of Zifa statutes) and that the relevant proceedings shall be governed by the Zifa Disciplinary Committee (cf Art 52.2 and 53.2 of Zifa Statutes).
“Most of the material is of findings of the Ethics committee, which are also not clearly filed against each person to ensure easy assessment of the file.
“In some cases, there is nothing against names cited for punishment, leaving us to wondering as to how the decisions were arrived at.”
He said there were issues to do with procedure that they have also picked out from the documents, sent by Zifa, and were included in their presentation before Valcke on Wednesday.
“There is little evidence, so far, of players being properly cited, although a few individuals were sent emails, but asking them to appear before the Ethics Committee and never Disciplinary Committee as required by the statutes – a template of the letter is cited,” said Bivolaru.
“Clearly there is no outline of defence, nor details of appeals, procedures and timelines for so doing. So far, the documents we had sight of do not have such details.
“A report of complaint was also raised with Valcke on Zifa’s CEO’S (Jonathan Mashingaidze) tendency to use a private e-mail (email@example.com ) on official business, a situation they said causes confusion and delays as they can not entertain medium of communication that is not permissible.”
At the same meeting, concern was raised at another private email address, of an employee who works for a Harare-based organisation, which was used to fill an online registration form, for Zifa officials, for the forthcoming Fifa Congress in May in Mauritius.
This was cited as another example of a case of breach of communication.
Valcke told the meeting that Daniel Kottman, a member of his office whose responsibility is logistics for the Congress, complained after receiving Zifa communication from a private company’s address and this was unacceptable given the sensitivity of the matter in which official passwords were involved.
Fifa had communicated the official passwords giving security information on online registration for the Congress in Mauritius.
Bivolaru said a final determination on Asiagate will be presented by Fifa in due course, possibly on or before the Fifa Congress at the end of May.
“The department will present an official report and recommendation when they complete looking at the Asiagate files. Valcke told the meeting that he has not communicated with Zifa, since the EXECO (Executive Committee) meeting, after he was alerted of the arrival of two boxes of files from Zifa,” said Bivolaru.
“The first one sent on March 18, arriving on March 21, as the meeting at which recommendations were made closed.
“He said he informed the chairman of the Disciplinary Committee of the developments to which they agreed to let the Legal Affairs department, headed by Marco Villiger, go through the files and advise accordingly.
“Valcke intimated, the matter could be taken if need be, to the 63rd Fifa Congress to be held on 30-31 May 2013 in Mauritius but will await advice from responsible members of the EXECO on the matter as it is not only about Zimbabwe but other countries too, most of whom have concluded the case as contained in the 500-page Chris Eaton Report.” The Herald
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