Football: Top Sierra Leone Officials Arrested Over Corruption

Football: Top Sierra Leone officials arrested over corruption

FREETOWN, (Pakistan Point News - APP -8th Sept,2016) :- Three of Sierra Leone's top football officials were arrested and detained overnight over alleged corruption offences, the head of the country's anti-graft agency told AFP Thursday. Police picked up the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) president, Isha Johansen, her vice-president Brima Kamara and secretary-general Chris Kamara on Wednesday night, and drove them to the headquarters of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in Freetown before they were taken into custody.

ACC chief Ady Macauley told AFP their arrests related to "discrepancies in the financial statement of the SLFA relating to donor and public funds to the amount of $3.5 million," since Johansen assumed office in 2013. Macauley said Johansen, Kamara and Kamara had been invited to speak to the ACC on several occasions but had failed to respond. The ACC had announced the start of "Operation Thunderbolt" on Wednesday, which it said would "bring to justice" individuals known to the commission who may have been involved in graft.

According to SLFA officials in Freetown the association is not accountable to the government of Sierra Leone but to FIFA's account committee, which usually audit national associations. Neither the arrested officials nor their lawyers could not be reached for a comment but have in the past denied any wrongdoing, referring to the ACC drive as "political interference". The head of the Criminal Investigations Department, Chief Superintendent Mohamed Kamara, confirmed the three spent the night in their custody, though none have been charged.

They remained in custody and were undergoing questioning by Thursday lunchtime, and Johansen was refused a request to be transferred to hospital, the police chief said, until a doctor had seen her. Johansen was elected president of the Sierra Leone Football Association on August 3, 2013 after her main opponent, former Sierra Leone International footballer Mohamed Kallon, was disqualified. Since then she has faced heavy criticism from football executives, with several local clubs boycotting the national leagues.

A presidential committee was set up to address the conflict but failed to make headway. Johansen founded her own club, FC Johansen, in 2004 with the objective of giving hope to a group of young footballers. She is Sierra Leone's first female FA president, and also serves on FIFA's security and integrity committee. Many Sierra Leoneans have long blamed corruption for the poor performance of the Leone stars national team. The news comes less than a week after FIFA named a new chief finance officer following the massive financial scandal that rocked the world football body last year. The former postholder Markus Kattner was fired for his involvement in a staggering multi-million Dollar self-enrichment plot through illicit bonus payments and pay rises that also helped bring down former president Sepp Blatter and secretary general Jerome Valcke.