ZURICH (Reuters) - World soccer body FIFA announced on Monday it had banned two officials from Nepal and Laos for taking cash during FIFA elections, extending moves to root out corruption that has shaken the international game.
Ganesh Thapa, president of the All-Nepal Football Association (ANFA), was banned for 10 years and fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($19,870), while Viphet Sihachakr, president of the Laotian Football Federation, received a two-year ban and 40,000 franc fine.
FIFA was thrown into turmoil in May by U.S. indictments of 14 football officials, including two FIFA vice-presidents and sports marketing executives, for alleged corruption. President Sepp Blatter has been suspended ahead of February elections for a new leader who will face the task of cleaning up the game.
FIFA’s ethics committee said Thapa, during 2009 and 2011 elections for the FIFA Executive Committee at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) congress, “committed various acts of misconduct ...including the solicitation and acceptance of cash payments from another football official, for both personal and family gain”.
Sihachakr solicited and accepted a payment from another football official during 2011 elections, it said.
Thapa denied wrongdoing in a statement.
“I am very disappointed and I do not believe that justice has been served. I have fully cooperated with FIFA during their investigations since the last four years,” he said, adding he was seeking the reasons for FIFA’s step and would file appeals.
In Nepal, ANFA Chief Executive Indra Man Tuladhar said: “We must accept the decision of FIFA. An ANFA executive meeting will meet within the next 14 days and take a decision about its future course.”
Ganesh Thapa, a member of parliament from the pro-monarchy Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (Nepal), is brother of Kamal Thapa, a new deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs.
Karma Tsering Sherpa, a vice president of ANFA who has been fighting a court battle against Thapa over the way ANFA is run, saw the ban as an opportunity for change.
“Now is the time for us to take Nepali football in a new direction. We begin with the meeting of the executive committee but there is a lot of work ahead,” he said.
In October Nepali police arrested five former and current national team players, including the captain, on match-fixing charges. They remain on bail and a trial date has not been set.
Suspended FIFA President Blatter is facing criminal investigation in Switzerland over a 2 million Swiss franc payment from FIFA to UEFA head Michel Platini. Both men have been provisionally suspended and have denied wrongdoing.
Reporting by Michael Shields in Zurich and by Gopal Sharma and Ross Adkin in Kathmandu; editing by Ralph Boulton