Tokyo Sexwale - Fifa’s new broom?

With the publication yesterday of FIFA’s list of official candidates to take over from scandal ridden Sepp Blatter we at the Offshore Game have been checking out the candidates.

Five candidates are currently on the list, with Platini’s candidacy suspended pending an investigation. Each of the approved candidates was vetted by an Ad-Hoc Ethics Committee before they could be allowed onto the official list.

Only one candidate was prevented from going forward – Liberia’s Musa Bility. He can appeal the decision, however for now it looks like his bid to become FIFA President is over.

In this post we look at the clear winner from FIFA’s decision, South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale. We also look at why Musa’s bid failed. What we have discovered raises some serious questions about the integrity of the process to select a new candidate for FIFA president. Whether any of the candidates are serious about reforming the deeply corrupt organisation remains entirely unclear.

The Winner – Tokyo Sexwale

South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale was a clear winner. The African Football Federations are an influential block in FIFA, and with Musa out of the way this leaves the field clear for him to build his presidential campaign.

Tokyo must now be seen as one of the favourites. He is being touted as the man who can clean up FIFA. The only candidate from outside FIFA (although he was involved in the South African World Cup bid), a successful businessman, a campaigner against apartheid who fought alongside Nelson Mandela and was imprisoned at Robben Island. He is now one of the richest men in South Africa, a charismatic and successful businessman, and a host on South Africa’s version of The Apprentice.

It all sounds an attractive proposition.

FIFA’s ethics committee claims they did a thorough due diligence job, scouring public records, court records, corporate records and the media for any ‘red flags’ that led to a whiff of corruption from the candidates. Anything they found was put to the candidates.

If that is true it would be interesting to know what the Ethics Committee asked Tokyo Sexwale about the serious allegations of corruption which have emerged and were published by the team of South African investigative journalists at amaBhungane.

AmaBhungane has published an analysis on why they think he is the wrong man for the job. The full article is here.

But the main issue involves Sexwale’s involvement in the mining industry. Mining is a sector that is notorious for corruption because of the industry’s reliance on gaining government licences in order to operate.

Sexwale chooses to structure his business using a highly secretive offshore companies based in tax havens. This includes Africa Management Limited based in Guernsey which is connected to companies in notorious tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands.

This means that parts of Tokyo’s businesses do not need to publish information about who has an interest in his company, or their annual accounts.

These offshore companies have been involved in some highly controversial deals, one of which is currently ‘caught up’ in an corruption investigation.

This involved a deal over a copper mine in the Congo involving highly controversial businessman Dan Gertler. Sexwale invested $120m with Gertler, who received the mine after it was stripped from another miner by the Congolese government. Gertler, who is said to be close to the Congolese president, then sold the mine several months later for a huge profit.

Sexwale’s joint venture partner, Och-Ziff Capital, disclosed last year that it is under investigation by the US Department of Justice (yes, that is the same outfit who are investigating corruption at FIFA) over allegations of corruption on the deal. Och-Ziff is based in the US which brings it under the jurisdiction of the DoJ.

It must be said that Tokyo’s spokesperson has stressed that these are just allegations, but they surely meet the test of a ‘red flag’.

If FIFA wants to retain any credibility for the process, it should disclose what questions (if any) they asked about Tokyo Sexwale’s business interests, and what answers he gave.

Liberia’s Fall Guy - Musa Bility

The president of the Liberian Football Association was  excluded by from running by FIFA’s ethics committee  because of concerns about integrity.

Front Page Africa, a Liberian newspaper has the story. Musa was apparently ‘primarily rejected’ because of a ban he previously received for breaching confidentiality rules of the Confederation of African Football. At the time he was attempting to change the rules regarding the election of CAF presidents.

In addition Musa has recently been charged with tax evasion by the Liberian government and was ordered by a judge to pay $190,000. Bility was also indicted in relation to a corrupt deal involving Roberts International Airport, as he was chairman of the Liberian Airports Authority.

These seem like pretty serious allegations, but no more serious than those facing Sexwale, and Musa would make the same argument, that he has not been found guilty of any criminal offence.

The rejection of Musa raises the question as to whether his candidacy has provided a veil of integrity for the process. Not a conspiracy, but a useful fall guy who allows the Ethics Committee to claim that their system is working.

As things stand, it’s hard not to conclude that an organisation with a systemic deficiency in transparency and accountability is running a process deficient in transparency and accountability, which is highly likely to install a new leader deficient in – you get the idea.

That ‘sweep sweep’ sound you hear may not be a new broom, but just the old dirt going under Zurich’s biggest carpet.

© 2014