Fifa probe as controversy whacks Oceania again

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 06/11/2011

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Fifa is probing the deputy chairman of its disciplinary committee and treasurer of the Oceania Football Confederation, Dr Muhammad Shamsud-Dean Sahu Khan.

Almost a year since former OFC boss and Fifa vice-president Reynald Temarii – the target of a World Cup vote-rigging sting by Britain's Sunday Times – controversy has returned to the Auckland-based confederation.

Former lawyer Sahu Khan has been disbarred by the Independent Legal Services Commission in Fiji and banned from holding a practising certificate for 10 years.

He is appealing the decision.

Article 58.1 of Fifa's Statutes declares senior disciplinary committee members must possess legal credentials: "The Disciplinary Committee shall consist of a chairman, deputy chairman and the number of members deemed necessary. The chairman and the deputy chairman shall have legal qualifications."

In response to Sunday Star-Times inquiries, Fifa stopped short of declaring a formal investigation, but over two emails sent to this newspaper, said it is "awaiting further information" and "will look at the situation" concerning Sahu Khan.

"As was announced at the last executive committee meeting on 21 October, Fifa is currently reviewing the lists of all of its standing committee. This process will be conducted over the coming weeks and presented to the executive Committee on 16-17 December," said a Fifa statement.

"In the meantime, Fifa will look at the situation of Dr Sahu Khan based on the information and the facts collected."

In February, Sahu Khan, a former Fijian Football Association president of almost 25 years, was elected OFC treasurer by the executive committee.

Tai Nicholas, OFC general secretary, denied Sahu Khan's status as an OFC executive committee member was in any way compromised by his professional position.

Nicholas, who said he had not discussed the situation with Fifa, said until all appeal options are exhausted, Sahu Khan will be considered innocent by both Fifa and the OFC.

"He [Sahu Khan] has communicated the problems that he's been having regarding the court proceedings in Fiji," Nicholas told the Star-Times.

"Sahu Khan is still a member of the disciplinary committee. He only went to a disciplinary committee [meeting] two weeks ago and Fifa did nothing or said nothing.

"Technically it's not [a breach of Fifa statutes] as he's still got a legal qualification, he's just disbarred from Fiji. I understand he's going to be admitted to the New Zealand Law Society, for example, or the Australian Law Society.

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"Obviously there's an appeal. If we're honest, there's debate around the coup regime, who are ostracising lawyers who are involved with the constitutional reforms.

"You should be aware that with no judiciary there, his case has been reviewed by one Australian judge. It's not a court per se.

"I think it makes sense to see out the appeal. I think we've got to give the benefit of the doubt until the time his appeal is exhausted."

The Star-Times lodged a request with Nicholas to seek direct comment from Sahu Khan, but did not hear back.

Nicholas confirmed Fifa legal committee member and OFC legal consultant, Shabina Sahu Khan, is a direct relative of Dr Sahu Khan.

- Sunday Star Times

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