Published: 08:07 PM, 14 April 2023
FIFA, the regulatory body of world football, has imposed a two-year ban and financial penalty to Bangladesh Football Federation general secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag for forging documents.
The adjudicatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee has banned Shohag, secretary of BFF and former member of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber, said a FIFA press release at its website on Friday.
Shohag has been issued with a two-year ban from taking part in all football-related activities and ordered to pay a fine of CHF 10,000 (around Tk 1.2 million) for having used false and/or falsified documents to justify payments made by the BFF with FIFA funds.
FIFA has published a 51-page Decision of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Ethics Committee at its website. The summary of the document is stated below.
On 28 October 2020, the FIFA Compliance Subdivision informed the Investigatory Chamber thatthe external consultant Control Risks Group Limited (Control Risks) had identified in its report dated 23 September 2020 several issues in regard to the bidding procedures at BFF. In addition, the FIFA Compliance Subdivision advised that, due to the findings of this report, it had requested a forensic review at the BFF´s premises to be conducted by the audit firm BDO LLP (BDO).
On 5 March 2021, BDO issued its forensic report on the use of funds by BFF covering the period of 1 January 2017 to 30 September 2020.
In view of the above and the documentation collected throughout the preliminary investigation, Martin Ngoga, Chairperson of the Investigatory Chamber, determined on 28 April 2022 that there was a prima facie case that Shohag had committed violations of the FIFA Code of Ethics, 2020 edition (FCE). Accordingly, the latter was informed of the opening of formal investigation proceedings against him for potential breaches of arts 13 (General Duties), 17 (Duty to report), 24 (Forgery and Falsification), 25 (Abuse of position) and 28 (Misappropriation and misuse of funds) of the FCE.
In June 2020, the BFF National Teams Committee decided to purchase sport equipment for the residential camp in Dhaka and matches of the Bangladesh National Football Team.
The Chamber noted that BFF received three quotations in July 2020 from Sports Link, Sports Corner and Robin Enterprise for the potential purchase of sport equipment for the residential camp in Dhaka and matches of the Bangladesh National Football Team. In this respect, the Final Report listed various issues identified by BDO, Control Risks or the Expert in their respective reports, which indicated that these quotations were false:
· All three bidders appeared to be linked to each other;
•All three documents submitted by the bidders had the same typo “Qutations” and did not include the bidders’ stamp;
• Two quotations had the same suspicious opening statement “we are pleased to inform you that we have supplied you the following items as per your order”, whereas no items had even been ordered;
• All three quotations had the same layout/structure with the same format and located signature space;
• Robin Enterprise’s quotation included a mobile phone number without any connection to the company;
• Sports Corner and Sports Link have their business premises located next to each other;
• The owner of Sports Link, Robin, appeared to be a former employer of Sports Corner;
• The signatures of the “proprietor” on the documents submitted by Sports Link, i.e., the “quotation” dated 18 July 2020 and the “confirmation of delivery” dated 28 July 2020, “do not follow the same course (…)” and;
• The three quotations “are made by the same employer or template, indicating that they have not been made by different companies
With the second Transaction, the Chamber noted that BFF received three quotations from Maria International, M/S H.U Zaman Trading and Ophelia’s Closet on 18 and 19 December 2019, respectively, for the potential purchase of 400 footballs.
• Ophelia’s Closet did not exist on the address provided on the quotation and is involved in tailoring of women’s wear and it was therefore unlikely that this company could provide the footballs to BFF; Adjudicatory Chamber of the Ethics Committee Decision FED-299 37
• Ophelia’s Closet did not have an import licence and used the one of “a friend”, as explained by the supplier;
• Even though no invoice had been received from Ophelia’s Closet, BFF still made the payment to the supplier;
• Maria International and M/S H.U Zaman Trading’s quotations did not provide sufficient identifiers and had no seal of the company;
• The quotations were all made up of table and had some overlapping elements; and
• The quotation belonging to Maria International and M/S H.U. Zaman Trading had signatures made on a photocopy and not on the original document.
In November 2019, BFF paid USD 19,9254 to Al Marwah International for the flight tickets in connection with the BFF National Team – World Cup 2022, Oman tour.
With the third transaction, the Chamber noted that three quotations addressed to Shohag were received from Al Marwah International, Purabi International and Multiplex Travels & Tours for the purchase of flight tickets in connection with the BFF National Team – World Cup 2022, Oman tour. In this respect, the Final Report listed various issues identified by BDO, Control Risks or the Expert in their respective reports, which indicated that these quotations were false:
• All three quotations contained several similarities, in particular the same opening statement “we are pleased to submit the following route air tickets quotations” and contained the same typo (“rout”);
• Multiplex Travels & Tours is listed in two business Bangladeshi directories as a travel agency but there appeared to be a typo in the name of the supplier on the quotation, the latter being mentioned in it as “(…) & Tours” (emphasis added);
• Purabi International is a manpower recruitment agency, so that it appeared unlikely that said entity would have been requested to provide a quotation for air tickets;
• The body text of the quotations is identical; the quotations have the same numbering error and were issued on the same date. Therefore, due to these unusual similarities, it was unlikely that Multiplex Travels & Tours and Purabi International have actually sent the quotations;
• Both Purabi International and Multiplex Travels & Tours confirmed that they have not provided any quotations to BFF nor performed services for the said association;
• All three quotations had the same table structures, date and referencing format;
• The tables on the quotations were made up of the same size and fully coincident in their base content. Moreover, the sentence with the same typo was present on all three quotations; and
• “[T]he doubtful documents (…) are made by the same pattern or template, being made by the same company and not different.”
On 10 February 2020, BFF purchased lawn mowers for USD 1,412.60. On 15 December 2019, the order for the purchasing of goods was issued by Mr Shohag. On 17 December 2019, Sharmin Enterprise submitted a third quotation. On 10 February 2020, BFF issued a check from the FIFA designated bank account to Bangladesh Hardware and a few days later, on 16 February 2020, Bangladesh Hardware acknowledged receipt of the payment.
42. In this respect, the Final Report noted that the various reports on file identified a number of problems with the quotations received by BFF in relation to Transaction 4. In particular, Control Risks concluded in its report dated 23 September 2020 that:
• BFF provided Control Risks’ auditors with three undated quotations.
• The one of Bangladesh Hardware had a typo in its name “Bangladesh Hardwar”, with a slightly different address.
• The quotations of Shova Enterprise and Sharmin Enterprise had several similarities and thesame imagery.
44. Moreover, BDO noted in its report dated 5 Match 2021 that:
• When it contacted Sharmin Enterprise, the person on the phone responded as Shova Enterprise.
• Bangladesh Hardware could not be reached.
Finally, the Expert concluded in his report dated 19 September 2022 that:
• The quotations contained a table filled by hand and all quotations had the same background.
• Shova Enterprise and Sharmin Enterprise have a very similar structure in typography, size and style, so that these documents “are made by the same template, the same origin, and not from different companies.”
• There were discrepancies in the signatures on the documents submitted by Bangladesh Hardware, i.e., the quotation and the acknowledge receipt letters.
Summary of the hearing
On February 16, a hearing was held at the home of FIFA in Zurich. For the accused Shohag four councels- Ajmalul Hossain, Margub Kabir, Vincent Solari, and Antoine Boesch were present.
After the hearing Chamber was comfortably satisfied to conclude that the information and evidence on file and contained in the Final Report demonstrated that Shohag had used false documents in the scope of Transactions 1-4, in particular by signing documents relating thereto without first verifying the quotations received. By extension, Shohag was also seen as having breached arts. 13 and 15 FCE in so far that he failed to both behave in an ethical manner and to act in accordance with his fiduciary duty towards BFF and FIFA.
Decision of the Chamber
1. Shohag is found responsible for having breached art. 13 (General duties), art 15 (Duty of loyalty) and art 24 (Forgery and falsification) of the FIFA Code of Ethics, in relation to the use of false and/or falsified documents to justify payments made with FIFA funds, whilst serving as General Secretary of BFF.
2. Shohag is hereby banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity at national and international level (administrative, sports or any other) for a duration of two (2) years, asfrom the notification of the present decision.
3. Mr Shohag is ordered to pay a fine to the amount of CHF 10,000.
4. The fine is to be paid within 30 days of notification of the present decision.