By Paul Nicholson
August 15 – In what looks like a further attempt to clean house of dissenting voices within the federation, the Liberian FA (LFA) has suspended its legal director Benedict Yarsiah “with immediate effect without pay, for time indefinite, pending an investigation.”
The specific charges against Yarsiah are unclear though he is “accused of a significant breach of ethics, as well as dissemination of sensitive and confidential information to the general public.”
By suspending Yarsiah without pay the LFA is acting as judge and jury with the concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ having been abandoned. The open-ended timescale is of particular concern and endemic of a federation that appears to manage its affairs for the personal benefit of individuals rather than the sport.
The Liberian FA (LFA) and its president Musa Hassan Bility (pictured far right) have been accused by stakeholders of multiple counts of misappropriation of LFA funds. Staff have gone unpaid, some for as long as a year, clubs have not received grants or prize money, referees have not been paid, competitions have been cancelled or reduced, and the LFA has been accused of issuing fake invoices and double accounting. A forensic audit has been requested but FIFA has to date ignored all requests.
The growing public awareness of the situation is embarrassing for FIFA’s executive and particularly its general secretary Fatma Samoura and president Gianni Infantino who have been repeatedly made aware of the situation but have refused to contact stakeholders and act on the issues raised.
Bility, who has been a powerful supporter of Infantino and rallying support for his causes in Africa, has boasted that he can do anything and is protected by his relationship with FIFA’s president.
However, not everything has gone Bility and Infantino’s way. Most recently CAS overturned an LFA decision to eject Rochell Woodson from their executive committee while she was on maternity leave. Woodson has been an outspoken critic of the Bility regime and Liberian football injustice. Bility has been forced to accept that judgement.
Yarsiah’s letter of suspension refers him “to the office of the president” if he has any questions. His suspension allows him to attend football matches but not to enter the playing area.
Interpol issues warrant for Bility
The LFA’s financial troubles look to be wrapped up in Bility’s own financial lifestyle and issues.
A report in the New Democrat Liberia newspaper says that Interpol has issued an arrest warrant against Bility for his extradition to Nigeria in connection with an alleged $2.4 million criminal transaction.
Bility is being sued in Nigerian by Kunle Roberts for issuing false cheques in a multimillion dollar petrol deal. Roberts’ company Drake Alliance Oil Trading FZE reached an agreement with Bility’s Nexis Enterprise Inc. and Srimex Oil and Gas for the shipment of petroleum products for Bility’s companies in Liberia.
Bility didn’t pay the $2.4 million fee though took delivery of the oil shipment. As part of a renegotiated agreement Bility agreed to pay in instalments but then started issuing cheques that bounced.
Interpol-Abuja alerted Interpol Liberia, Monrovia, and a warrant of arrest was issued via an INTERPOL Red notice No.2017/134358.
FIFA are likely aware of these issues as they prevented Bility from running for the FIFA presidency in 2015. Bility subsequently switched his allegiance to Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, and then to Infantino.
Since then Bility has rewarded with his election to the executive committee of the African Football Confederation (CAF) this year in the elections that saw the end of Issa Hayatou’s regime and the ushering in of a new cabal of football executives in Africa with Ahmad Ahmad as the new president of CAF.
Bility has a high political profile in Liberia having resigned from the ruling Unity party and taken a position with the opposition Liberty Party where he is running the presidential campaign of Charles Walker Brumskine. Ironcially Brumskine has been standing on an anti-corruption platform. Bility is believed to have escaped arrest by travelling on a diplomatic passport.
Despite all of this he appears to be very much FIFA’s man on the ground in Liberia.
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