Hawks to swoop on soccer brass

Match-fixing crisis deepens

THE Hawks are poised to arrest several prominent soccer officials in connection with the alleged R8-million match-fixing scam involving Bafana Bafana games.

The arrests will "shake South African football to its core", according to Hawks spokesman Paul Ramaloko.

A special Hawks team and international law enforcement agencies are sifting through documents recently seized in raids on several Safa officials' offices and homes, and the offices of foreign football associations.

Ramaloko said the Hawks had been investigating the case since early this year, but a complaint of corruption was laid only this week and a criminal investigation was officially opened only yesterday.

The investigation is linked to the suspensions on Sunday of five senior officials of the South African Football Association, including its president Kirsten Nematandani.

Others suspended were the acting chief executive Dennis Mumble, national teams manager Lindile "Ace" Kika, referees boss Adeel Carelse and Bafana team manager Barney Kujane. Safa insisted that the five were not implicated in the Fifa report, nor were any Bafana players.

The five were suspended after Safa received a report from soccer's world governing body Fifa on four matches Bafana played as warm-ups ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Suspicions around the matches against Colombia, Guatemala, Thailand and Bulgaria surfaced in June last year.

It has since been established that a convicted match-fixer, Wilson Raj Perumal, who had arranged the matches for Safa, had used a crime syndicate called Football4U to fix the results of these matches with the help of corrupt referees provided by Perumal. Perumal, a Singaporean citizen who was jailed in Finland last year, was the front man for an Asian betting syndicate.

Ramaloko said allegations were that R8-million was paid to senior Safa officials to ensure that Bafana won their four warm-up matches in 2010.

"During several meetings between this match fixer and Safa officials a sum of R8-million was offered to the officials," said Ramaloko. "The match fixer is alleged to have offered to supply certain referees to oversee the matches to ensure that Bafana Bafana won."

He would not name the Safa officials, but said "they hold extremely senior positions within the association".

He said the Hawks were working with Interpol as well as senior members of several foreign football associations. "Although the investigation still has a way to go arrests are going to be made," he said.

Mumble denied on Facebook that he had been suspended and said the "amateur interlopers at Safa have now managed to turn this whole thing on its head".

"No matter how hard we try to fix this association, we just can't get it right," Mumble wrote. "I reported the incident to Fifa and I am the one who asked for this investigation! I'm not in the office because I have to prepare for this commission as a key witness."

Kika was not available for comment, while Carelse referred Sowetan to Safa. Kujane has promised to cooperate.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said: "I'm shocked and dismayed by this development. If found guilty they must meet the full wrath of the law. This is a disgrace."