MASERU — New evidence has lifted a lid into the murky Lesotho Football Association’s strong links with convicted football match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal. The Sunday Express has proof that the squad and officials’ air tickets to Kuala Lumpur for Lesotho’s friendly match on September 11, 2009 were paid for by Football4U, a front company in the thick of match-fixing scandals in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
This paper is in possession of a letter dated Tuesday, September 1, 2009 from Football4U which was addressed to the then Lesotho Football Association’s (Lefa) acting chief executive officer now the secretary general Mokhosi Mohapi confirming the e-tickets for the 25-member squad’s travel itinerary to Malaysia in September 2009.
The letter was signed by Perumal who is identified in the letter as events and projects director of Football4U.
The purchase of tickets by the company further raises suspicion that the friendly against Malaysia could have been fixed. The Lesotho delegation list, placed on the Football4U letterhead and which the Sunday Express has seen, had Khiba Mohoanyane, the current Lesotho Football Association first vice president, as head of delegation.
Mohoanyane used his South African passport bearing number 458086247 to Malaysia. The delegation had a seven-member contingent of officials who included Mohapi, who used his Lesotho passport bearing number RA 677725. Others included Makhetha (Leslie) Notsi, the Lesotho national team coach who also used his South African passport bearing number 447191963. According to a communiqué sent to Mohapi and signed by Perumal, Football4U confirmed its purchase of the tickets.
In the letter, Perumal wrote: “Mr Mohapy (Mohapi), this letter serves to inform you that our travel agent has confirmed 25 electronic tickets for the Lesotho football team that will be travelling to Kuala Lumpur to play the Malaysia senior national team. The match will be played on Friday 11th September 2009 as scheduled. The tickets information will be sent to you before the end of the week so to enable you to prepare your travel as well as details regarding the coach to Johannesburg.”
The letter shows the company was unwilling to buy more tickets for additional members of the squad
“However, the most recent delegation list I am told by the agency, had the following additional names; Mr. Tlholo Letete (official), Mr. B. Makobe, M. Letsie, and T. Mosakeng (players). We are unfortunately unable to get them tickets as we already issued 25 tickets for the initial list of 25 names that appeared on the first list submitted early last week,” Perumal said in the letter.
Letete was then first vice president when he was turned back at OR Tambo Airport following his failure to secure a ticket. In March this year, Lefa former employee Likhetho Mokhathi told the South African newspaper Mail & Guardian that he was sent by Mohapi to take delegation members’ passports to “some guy’’ in Pretoria where he met “an Indian-looking gentleman” who introduced himself as Raj Perumal at a train station.
Perumal gave Mokhathi his business card before the two parted ways. The business card bears the name of Perumal and identifies him as a sport agent. Mohapi told the Mail & Guardian in January that his association had never been approached by Perumal, but said that it was its policy, in line with Fifa’s recommendation, to deal with other associations rather than with agents.
Perumal is cited in a Fifa report on the South African Football Association as the face of Football4U, a front for the worldwide betting syndicate that allegedly fixed the South African national team’s matches ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Perumal was given a three-year jail term for bribing players in the Finnish league in February 2011.
A LESOTHO player who asked to remain anonymous said they were given US$3 000 (about M30 000) in Malaysia. Lesotho lost 5-0 against Malaysia in the friendly, their most fetid defeat since they last played against World Cup qualifying front-runners Ghana in Kumasi where they suffered a 3-0 loss in a World Cup qualifier on October 12, 2008.
Lesotho’s biggest loss against the Malaysian team had been a 4-0 drubbing against Malaysia’s Under-23 team in the Merdeka Cup on August 25, 2007, a match also largely believed to have been fixed. In the 2007 encounter, a number of Lesotho players who had travelled went on a financial splurge on their return from Malaysia, raising suspicions that they had received huge sums of cash in Malaysia. In the August 2007 Merdeka Cup, Lesotho and Zimbabwe were the only African teams in the tournament.
Others included hosts Malaysia under-23, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Singapore, Myanmar and Laos which formed two groups of four. The two African teams were in different groups. Despite the Lesotho football supporters’ association raising the alarm in November 2012 about possible match-fixing, Lefa has not taken any steps to investigate the allegations.
In November 2012 the supporters association asked Lesotho’s anti-corruption body, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to investigate the allegations. No investigation was carried out, with the DCEO telling the supporters’ association that there was no case in the allegations despite not having carried out any investigation into the matter.
On Friday Mohapi confirmed that Perumal’s Football4U had bought the tickets but added that there was nothing sinister about that arrangement. He said Lefa had received an invitation from the Malaysian FA for friendly games. He said after Lefa had signed a contract the Malaysian FA had informed them that they would be dealing with Football4U.
It is normal for national football associations to appoint agencies. He said had they known that Perumal was involved in match-fixing Lefa would not have agreed to deal with him. “We wouldn’t have known that at that time. But now that we know, I think it raises some concerns,” Mohapi said. “I remain sure that that none of our players or officials were involved in match-fixing.”
When asked about allegations that some Lesotho players had received huge sums of money in Malaysia, Mohapi said it was normal for players to receive allowances for friendly matches. “When we played Malawi it was the Malawi Football Association which paid allowances to our players.
“I would like to believe that this was the same case with the Malaysian tournament. The Malaysian FA paid the allowances,” Mohapi said. David Fani, former president of the Botswana Football Association is cited in the Fifa report on South African Football Association match-fixing as having warned former head of referees Steve Goddard about Football4U.
Goddard is said to have refused bribes during Bafana’s pre-World Cup fixed friendly matches. The warning by Fani points to a continent-wide syndicate operation by the company headed by Perumal who, according to former Fifa’s head of security, “had perfected his scheme in the late ‘90s in Ghana and Zimbabwe.”
Two former Lesotho national team players who asked to remain anonymous have alleged that Lesotho’s fixture with Ghana in a World Cup qualifier on June 8, 2008 in Bloemfontein could have been fixed. Lesotho lost the match 3-2 after going down 3-0 midway through the second half. A late Lesotho surge saw them claw their way back to lose the match 3-2. One of the players alleged that he got lost in the corridors of the Free State stadium, which was under renovations, at half time and stumbled into referees’ room and found them counting large sums of cash in US dollars.
One former senior player told this paper that he overheard a plot to fix the match after the Lesotho goalkeeper was promised bribes to deliberately concede goals in the match.