- Asian soccer head cleared to run as no evidence of abuse claim
- Election to replace Sepp Blatter is scheduled for Feb. 26
Liberia’s Musa Bility was barred for standing as a candidate to succeed FIFA President Sepp Blatter after financial irregularities were found during the organization’s background check, according to a person familiar with the matter.
A FIFA committee responsible for vetting the candidates said today it’s cleared five men to stand, including Asian soccer head Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, who has rejected claims of involvement in human rights abuses in his native Bahrain, where he is a member of the ruling family. Michel Platini, the suspended European soccer head, wasn’t subject to the test because of his ban, though could join the fray should he succeed in an appeal.
The other candidates cleared to run are Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein, the Jordanian prince who was beaten by Blatter in May’s election, Jerome Champagne, a former French diplomatic who had worked as an aide to Blatter, Platini’s lieutenant Gianni Infantino of Switzerland and South African anti-apartheid campaigner turned mining mogul Tokyo Sexwale.
Bility was the least known and the least likely of the group of candidates to succeed Blatter, the 79-year-old who is being forced from office following criminal investigations by Swiss and U.S. prosecutors alleging decades-long corruption at the soccer body. Bility’s Liberian soccer federation didn’t respond to an e-mail and call seeking comment.
Several red flags over Bility’s financial and economic affairs were raised during the background check, said the person familiar with the matter. He declined to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
"The Ad-hoc Electoral Committee did not admit the candidature of Musa Hassan Bility, in view of the content of the integrity check report relating to him. For reasons of protection of personality rights, the Ad-hoc Electoral Committee -- while it has explained its considerations in detail to Musa Hassan Bility -- will not comment publicly on the specifics of its decision,” the committee said in an e-mailed statement.
With FIFA in the midst of the biggest crisis in its 111-year existence, allowing Bility to stand in the election was impossible, according to the person familiar.
Human rights groups in Bahrain sent a detailed report to FIFA related to what they claim was Sheikh Salman’s involvement in the abuse of athlete protesters during pro-democracy events in 2011.
After analyzing the details the FIFA panel found no evidence "with regard to any personal and direct involvement" in the alleged abuses, Andreas Bantel, a spokesman for the chairman of the electoral committee, said in a statement.
Sheikh Salman said last month allegations about him are “entirely false” and that he had “absolutely no involvement in the identification, investigation, prosecution or mistreatment of any individuals as has been alleged.”
Infantino decided to step in following Platini’s suspension. He’s said he’ll make way should his boss be cleared to run. Platini is fighting claims that he received an illicit $2 million payment from Blatter in 2011. Both men deny wrongdoing and are attempting to clear their names.