By Graham Dunbar
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
GENEVA _ A former FIFA executive committee member lost his appeal against a life ban for corruption in a long-running case of alleged bribery in a 2009 election.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Monday its panel dismissed Vernon Manilal Fernando’s challenge to the ban.
“The CAS panel expressed a strong message intended to all members of the sporting community, acting in whatever capacity: if one is involved in bribery then one may expect exile from the sport,” the court said in a statement.
Though FIFA never specified details of its case against Fernando, the sports court said the Sri Lankan official was implicated in the election at the 2009 Asian Football Confederation Congress for a seat on the FIFA executive committee.
Then, Fernando was an ally of Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar who retained his FIFA seat against Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain. The contest was marred by allegations of vote-buying levelled by supporters of both candidates, including the Olympic Council of Asia which backed the challenger.
“Vernon Manilal Fernando did not object to the bribery charges but considered that the (FIFA ethics code) should only apply to bribes to third parties and not to other FIFA officials which cannot be accepted,” the CAS said.
Fernando was banned for life by the FIFA appeals committee in October 2013 for multiple ethics violations, including bribery, conflicts of interest and accepting gifts. His case spun off a separate FIFA ethics probe of Bin Hammam’s financial management while AFC president.
The court said Fernando did not provide evidence to support his arguments.
FIFA ethics judge Joachim Eckert had suspended Fernando for eight years. That sanction was challenged by then-FIFA ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia, who sought a life ban.
Fernando was a FIFA regional development officer, overseeing funds distributed by a panel chaired by Bin Hammam, when Asian member federations elected him in 2011 to join the governing body’s executive committee.
He formally joined the FIFA executive committee in June 2011, days after Bin Hammam withdrew from the FIFA presidential election against Sepp Blatter when implicated in buying votes in the Caribbean.
Fernando’s case was resolved one month before his FIFA seat falls vacant at an Asian Football Confederation election congress. The remainder of his four-year mandate is being served by Zhang Jilong of China and expires at an April 30 meeting in Manama, Bahrain.