Ghana has been exposed as agreeing to take part in international football matches organised by match fixers.
An undercover investigation by London’s The Daily Telegraph and Channel Four’s Dispatches programme found that the President of Ghana’s Football Association agreed for the team to play in international matches that others were prepared to rig.
The team is currently competing in the World Cup finals in Brazil, and on Saturday pulled off a 2-2 draw against Germany, in what was seen as one of the most entertaining games of the tournament so far.
However, it can be revealed that the African team had been lined up to play in international fixtures whose results would be fixed by corrupted officials.
The Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches launched a six-month investigation into match-fixing after receiving information that some football associations were working with criminal gangs looking to rig scores in international games.
Reporters from The Telegraph and a former Fifa investigator claimed they represented an investment company that wanted to ‘‘sponsor’’ games. Christopher Forsythe, a registered Fifa agent, along with Obed Nketiah, a senior figure in the Ghanaian FA, boasted that they could employ corrupt officials who would rig matches played by Ghana.
The president of the country’s football association then met the undercover reporter and investigator, along with Mr Forsythe and Mr Nketiah, and agreed a contract which would see the team play in the rigged matches, in return for payment.
The contract stated that it would cost $US170,000 ($181,116) for each match organised by the fixers involving the Ghanaian team, and would allow a bogus investment firm to appoint match officials, in breach of Fifa rules.
‘‘You [the company] will always have to come to us and say how you want it to go .th.th. the result,’’ said Mr Forsythe.
‘‘That’s why we will get the officials that we have greased their palms, so they will do it. If we bring in our own officials to do the match .th.th. You’re making your money.
‘‘You have to give them [the referees] something .th.th. they are going to do a lot of work for you, so you have to give them something,’’ said Mr Nketiah, who is also the chief executive of the Ghanaian football club Berekum Chelsea and sits on the management committee of the Ghana U20 national team.
Mr Forsythe said that match fixing was ‘‘everywhere’’ in football and that he could even arrange rigged matches between Ghana and British teams.
‘‘The referees can change the matches every time. Even in England it does happen,’’ he said.
Following the meeting in London, the representative of the investment firm asked if his company could be sure their approach would work.
Mr Forsythe replied: ‘‘We will always choose associations/countries that we think we can corrupt their officials for all our matches.’’
He listed a number of African and European countries, adding ‘‘we can look for match officials who will sing to our tune’’.
Mr Forsythe and Mr Nketiah then introduced the undercover reporters to Kwesi Nyantakyi, the president of the Ghana FA, at a five-star hotel in Miami earlier this month shortly before his team played South Korea in Miami before heading to Brazil.
During the meeting in Florida, the president agreed to a contract that stated each match would cost the investment company $170,000 and that they could appoint the match officials for each game.
A contract was drawn up that specified that ‘‘The Company will appoint and pay for the cost of the referees/match officials in consultation with an agreed Fifa Member association(s),’’ in direct breach of the rules that prohibit third parties from appointing officials, in order to protect their impartiality.
During the meeting, the president suggested that the fictional investment company put on two matches after the World Cup to prove that they were able to organise games.
‘‘So why don’t you arrange matches?’’ said Mr Nyantakyi.
‘‘Let’s say there should be an experimental period for us to see how we do your work? There is an opportunity in August, and then in December, but I don’t know about that. But these months appear to be the only time that we can have any opportunity to play friendly games.’’
When a reporter asked if the president was happy with the contract, as long as it reflected the experimental period he had requested, he replied, ‘‘Yeah these are the issues that I’ve got with it.’’ ‘‘So we can work on that with a trial game?’’ asked the investigator.
‘‘Yeah,’’ replied the president.
Premier League stars were due to play in matches which will not now take place.
Ghana’s football stars include the ex-Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien and former Tottenham Hotspur player Kevin-Prince Boateng, although there is no suggestion that either, or any other player, is involved in match-fixing.
Last week saw the first convictions in the modern era of criminals in this country for attempting to rig football matches, following an earlier investigation by this newspaper.
Chann Sankaran and Krishna Sanjey Ganeshan, businessmen from Singapore, and Michael Boateng, a former professional footballer, were found guilty after a six-week trial.
Sankaran and Ganeshan were sentenced to five years and Boateng 18 months. Sankaran and Ganeshan have links to the notorious international match fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, and were said to be attempting to establish a network of corrupt footballers in Britain.
Last month, The Daily Telegraph disclosed police concerns over attempts to fix a game between Nigeria and Scotland, due to be played in London. Officers from the National Crime Agency, Britain’s equivalent of the FBI which investigates organised crime, are understood to have asked Fifa to issue an alert over attempts to rig the game.
Terry Steans, a former Fifa investigator, said that the World Cup was ‘‘vulnerable’’ to match fixing.
‘‘I know that the World Cup is vulnerable to these criminal gangs because they have existing networks of contacts at all levels inside the game and they will look for any vulnerability they can find to exploit,’’ he said.
‘‘Match fixing is widespread. It is happening at every level and in many countries. Match-fixing syndicates with criminal intent have infiltrated all levels of football and sport from national, regional and on to international.’’
The revelations will heap further pressure on Fifa, which is already facing huge controversy.
Over the past month, Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, has faced calls to stand down after it emerged that the former Qatari executive committee member made millions of dollars in payments to Fifa officials.
In March, The Daily Telegraph disclosed that the same official had paid Jack Warner, one of the people that participated in the decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup, $US1.2 million soon after the vote.
When they were confronted about their operation, Mr Forsythe and Mr Nketiah denied any involvement in a plot to fix matches.
Mr Nketiah said: ‘‘These are false allegations and I will never in my life do such a thing.’’
As part of a statement, Mr Forsythe, said: ‘‘To be frank everything I told you about the match fixing was a figment of my own imagination because I am so naive that I don’t even know how matches are done. They were promises just to be able to get something off you.’’
Mr Nyantakyi said he had not read the contract and he did not know about the deal to fix games. He said the proposed match would have been handled by a licensed Fifa agent and he was unaware that Mr Forsythe had demanded £30,000 for the football association.
The Telegraph, London
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