‘‘Ibrahim Chaibou left football before FIFA could launch any potential disciplinary action against him,’’ the FIFA media department said in an email, adding that Chaibou ‘‘could of course be investigated again, should he return to soccer.’’
Chris Eaton, a former security chief for FIFA, said the governing body’s investigators tried and failed to question Chaibou in the six months before his retirement, a development he called disappointing.
‘‘People who have serious allegations of corruption against them ought to be properly investigated, if only to clear them of the allegations or confirm them,’’ he said.
FIFA, which has pledged a zero-tolerance fight against corruption in soccer, manages a list of about 2,000 elite referees and linesmen who are qualified to handle national team and international club matches. Each year, FIFA’s 209 national associations propose candidates between the ages of 25 and 45 who have worked in top-tier matches for at least two years. A referees committee has veto power over the nominations.
To be accepted, referees must have achieved acceptable grades in domestic matches and must pass FIFA-approved fitness and medical tests. They cannot hold an official position at any soccer club. Successful candidates get to wear a FIFA crest on their shirt.
In 2010, Chaibou was hired for matches in South Africa, Bahrain, Bolivia and Ecuador and small tournaments played in Egypt.
Many of them were organized by Wilson Raj Perumal, who has been convicted of match-fixing in Finland for Asian crime syndicates, and wrote about the fixes in a series of jailhouse letters to a Singaporean journalist in which he linked Chaibou to suspicious matches in South America. After serving his sentence and being released, Perumal has been helping law enforcement authorities in Hungary and Italy uncover rigged games. He has given testimony that is considered a major breakthrough in uncovering match-fixing in Europe.
Perumal’s company hired Chaibou to officiate at two games in 2010 — South Africa-Guatemala and Bahrain-Togo. The first was investigated by FIFA and the South African soccer federation; the second involved a team of impostors. Eaton said that when Perumal was arrested in Finland in February 2011, he had Chaibou’s number on his phone.
Chaibou also officiated two other games in South America — Bolivia-Venezuela and Ecuador-Venezuela — in October and November 2010, respectively, according to documents provided by FIFA. Both of those matches raised flags with betting monitors, according to confidential betting reports. In a letter written from jail, Perumal claimed the Bolivia match was ‘‘sold to an investor in China’’ — a euphemism for Asian crime gangs.
In Ecuador, the home team won 4-1, helped by penalties scored by both teams that were ‘‘similarly questionable,’’ according to a confidential betting monitoring report.
When asked by the AP whether he knew Perumal, Chaibou became combative.
‘‘You already asked me this question last time. I told you I don’t know him. I don’t know him!’’ he said, his voice rising. ‘‘I told you I don’t know these people.’’
In two previous calls to Chaibou, AP had not mentioned the name.
In 2010, Bahrain’s soccer federation hired Perumal to arrange an exhibition match between its national team and that of Togo.
But when the match was played in the Bahraini capital of Manama in September of that year, the rag-tag team from Togo contained none of the players from its national squad. Its coach was not that of the Togolese team, but rather Tchanile Bana, who was serving a two-year ban by Togo for a previous soccer scam.
Bahrain won 3-0, but its coach still complained angrily after the game; the score would have been even more lopsided if officials had not nullified several Bahraini goals on offside calls.
The referee was Chaibou.
From his prison cell in Finland, Perumal wrote to a Singaporean journalist that ‘‘Ibrahim Chaibo (sic) was put in charge of this match to keep the score as low as possible.’’
Perumal said he wagered ‘‘against the current’’ of other Singapore bettors who knew about his ties to the Togo game and who put down money on the Africans losing by a lot.
Chaibou denied that anyone influenced the match: ‘‘These are refereeing decisions. That’s all.’’
Asked whether Perumal had dictated the outcome, Chaibou hung up.
He did not answer further calls from the AP.
FIFA did not investigate because there was no formal complaint by either national federation about the match, which has become notorious in the soccer world for hurting the image of international exhibitions.Continued...