CAF president's ban reduced but re-election hopes over

FILE PHOTO: CAF President, Ahmad Ahmad speaks to press at presidential palace in Abidjan

By Mark Gleeson

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Confederation of African Football president Ahmad Ahmad's five-year ban from football has been reduced to two years, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said on Monday, ending his hopes of re-election this week.

The ruling clears the way for South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe to replace him and become the organisation's eighth president in its 63-year history.

Ahmad was banned from football for five years by FIFA in November and fined 200,000 Swiss francs after an ethics investigation by world soccer's governing body, which found the 61-year-old guilty of offering and accepting gifts and other benefits as well as of misappropriation of funds.

On appeal, CAS on Monday reduced the ban to two years - meaning Ahmad cannot stand for re-election this week - and cut his fine to 50,000 Swiss francs.

Ahmad, who was also a FIFA vice president, had hoped his appeal would be successful and allow him to seek re-election in Morocco on Friday.

Instead, he is effectively sidelined from football politics until November 2022.

Motsepe is set to replace him from Friday after an agreement brokered by FIFA president Gianni Infantino last week that will see the 59-year-old mining magnate, owner of the South African club Mamelodi Sundowns, elected unanimously and two of his rivals - Augustin Senghor of Senegal and Ahmed Yahya of Mauritania - named as CAF vice presidents.

Ahmad, a former fisheries minister in his native Madagascar, was elected in 2017 in a surprise triumph over long-standing incumbent Issa Hayatou.

FIFA banned him in November from all football-related activity, however, on several charges of corruption, among them diverting close to $1 million to a French intermediary company called Tactical Steel for the purchase of sports equipment that CAF previously bought directly from the manufacturers.

But CAS said the documents in the FIFA file did not support the conclusion that Ahmad received any personal benefit.

He was nevertheless found guilty of failure to record various financial transactions, acceptance of cash payments, and of making bank transfers of bonuses and indemnities without a contractual or regulatory basis.

He was also judged to be guilty of using CAF funds to take Muslim presidents of African football associations to Mecca on a pilgrimage he initially said he would pay for.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Hugh Lawson)