April 14, 2016 By Sahr Morris Jr.
Chairman of Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) match-fixing enquiry committee, Major (Rtd.) Alfred Palo Conteh, has confirmed that ‘10 persons of interest’ will be quizzed and investigated over long drawn allegations of match-fixing in Sierra Leonean football.
Addressing media officials Wednesday in a press conference at the SLFA secretariat in Kingtom, Major (Rtd.) Conteh said the committee had already served notice of the allegations made against persons of interest and those who are expected to aid the enquiry.
In July 2014, Sierra Leone football authorities indefinitely suspended a total of 15 people; four national team players, three referees and eight other officials on allegations of match-fixing, but the committee has now reduced the number to 10, based on current evidence and findings.
“The said match-fixing committee has already served notice of the allegation (s) made against persons of interest and those who are expected to aid the enquiry. These persons have been informed that they are presumed innocent until proven otherwise. They have also been informed of their right to be given the opportunity to be heard,” said the chairman, who is also Internal Affairs Minister.
Despite his refusal to name the 10 ‘persons of interest’, committee secretary, barrister Drucil Taylor maintained that the reduction in the number of alleged match fixers from 15 to 10 came about after they had critically looked into the allegations, backup with evidence.
The barrister, however, cautioned that “This does not mean the five others are exonerated, during the process of investigation we might rope them in, it all depends on the evidence we have.”
Taylor further revealed that the committee had divided the allegations into five themes: the 2008 Merdeka Youth U-20 competition in Malaysia; the June 2009 international friendly between Sierra Leone and Syria; the 2013 Nations Cup match clash between Sierra Leone and Cape Verde; the South Africa and Sierra Leone clash in October 2010; and referees trip to Brazil.
It could be recalled that in July 2014, the SLFA and Sports Ministry jointly pronounced an indefinite suspension on four national team players and eleven officials on allegations that they fixed a match involving the national team Leone Stars.
However, aside the allegations, the matter had dragged on almost indefinitely without being brought to closure, leaving the accused in limbo and the public guessing as to the authenticity or otherwise of the allegations.