Asian football’s long-serving general secretary was suspended on Wednesday over cover-up claims dating back to the dark days of disgraced ex-president Mohamed bin Hammam.
Alex Soosay, a former coach and Malaysian international midfielder, was relieved of his duties pending a probe into allegations he tried to hide documents during a 2012 audit.
The move follows the emergence of the videotaped interview of an AFC official who said Soosay asked him to “tamper (with) or hide” documents from investigators.
PricewaterhouseCoopers carried out the audit following claims that bin Hammam, now banned from football, was guilty of financial wrongdoing during his time in office.
“Asian Football Confederation General Secretary Dato Alex Soosay was today suspended by the AFC following media allegations which have recently surfaced concerning a case in 2012,” an AFC statement said.
“A video statement conducted as part of a FIFA investigation was passed to media recently and the AFC has now been able to verify its authenticity.”
The statement added that deputy general secretary Windsor John would take over on an interim basis while an internal investigation is carried out.
Soosay‘s suspension comes less than two weeks after he insisted to AFP that “the case is closed”.
“It’s completely, I don’t know, all of a sudden taken out of context,” he said on May 1, during an interview at the AFC congress in Bahrain.
– ‘Protect me’ –
The documents Soosay was trying to hide are thought to relate to payments made under Qatari businessman bin Hammam, who was also widely accused of bribery.
The explosive claims surfaced last month via the Malay Mail, which received a copy of the July 2012 taped interview of the AFC’s financial director.
The financial director said he came forward to FIFA investigators because of concerns about a conversation with Soosay at the time.
“He suddenly said ‘protect me’ and I was surprised,” the staff member was reported as saying in the interview.
“He said based on (what) they (PwC) have found out, have ‘I committed any crime and will they blame me for anything? Anything that you have… is it possible to either tamper or hide it somewhere?’
“As far as I understand (Soosay was talking about) things he had signed… about the premium voucher, the instruction to initiate payment mainly possibly for cash advances taken by Hammam.”
Days after the taped interview, the AFC filed a report with police alleging the theft of financial documents from its headquarters in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
According to the Malay Mail, Soosay later claimed in a police report that Hammam had embezzled nearly US$10 million.
Soosay made his denial to AFP in Bahrain just after the re-election of AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, who succeeded bin Hammam in 2013 promising to wipe the slate clean.
Bin Hammam was accused of bribery while campaigning for the FIFA presidency in 2011, as well as during his native Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup.
The mustachioed Soosay became AFC general secretary in 2009, the latter part of bin Hammam’s nine-year stint in charge of the Asian football body. – Agence France-Presse