FIFA bans FA presidents of Nepal, Laos

March 8, 2012, Nepal's Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, left, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, center, and All Nepal Football Association President Ganesh Thapa. (Binod Joshi/A/P)

GENEVA — In yet another case of FIFA election bribery, the president of Nepal’s soccer federation was banned for 10 years on Monday.

Ganesh Thapa, who will lose his place on FIFA’s Under-20 World Cup organizing committee, was implicated in bribery at elections to choose Asian delegates on the world governing body’s executive committee.

The FIFA ethics committee sanction further damaged the image of Nepalese soccer one week after five national team players were charged with treason in a match-fixing case.

Thapa was a former vice-president of the Asian Football Confederation when it was led by now-banned Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar. He retained his positions in Asia and at FIFA despite being under suspicion since 2012.

Thapa’s misconduct related to elections for Asian seats on the FIFA ruling committee in 2009 and 2011, the FIFA ethics panel said in giving its verdict Monday.

Thapa was guilty of the "solicitation and acceptance of cash payments from another football official, for both personal and family gain," the statement said.

His ban comes more than three years after a forensic audit of Asian confederation accounts identified Thapa’s son, Gaurav, for receiving $100,000 in cash from Bin Hammam in July-August 2009. Gaurav Thapa was then an AFC staff member, the audit report said.

In May 2009, Bin Hammam won a bitterly contested election to retain his FIFA executive committee seat against Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the Bahraini royal who is now a FIFA presidential candidate.

That 2009 election was marred by allegations of vote-buying by both sides. Another Bin Hammam ally, Vernon Manilal Fernando of Sri Lanka, was later banned for life by FIFA for bribing voters at the election in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Fernando won his own seat to the FIFA ruling panel in a January 2011 election meeting in Doha, Qatar, where three Asian delegates to FIFA were chosen. On the same day, Bin Hammam was re-elected AFC president and within weeks challenged Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency. His candidacy was ended by a bribery scandal in the Caribbean.

The FIFA ruling in Thapa’s case did not specify which FIFA seats in 2011 were tainted by election bribery.

The ruling also did not refer to a Nepal government inquiry last year into allegations that Thapa embezzled $6 million in two decades leading the soccer federation.

As well as the 10-year ban from soccer, Thapa was fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($19,900).

In a related case Monday, the top soccer official from Laos was suspended from soccer for two years by FIFA’s ethics committee.

Lao Football Federation President Viphet Sihachakr was found to have sought and accepted a payment from another official relating to the 2011 election for a place on FIFA’s executive committee.

Sihachakr was fined 40,000 Swiss francs (around $39,700).

He will also lose his place on the FIFA development committee which allocates tens of millions of dollars annually in project funding.

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