Serious Fraud Office chases offshore Oceania Football official

Two officials in international football regional governing body the Oceania Football Confederation are facing criminal charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office, with one believed to be overseas now facing an arrest warrant.

In a statement today the SFO said charges of fraud and money-laundering had been laid against the pair late last year. The first appearance by the New Zealand-based accused is scheduled for March 4 at the Auckland District Court.

The defendants have signalled an intent to apply for name suppression, the SFO statement said.

The charges relate to the construction and funding of the OFC’s Home of Football $17m complex in the east Auckland suburb of St Johns.

The SFO has been probing the OFC for years, following allegations of kickbacks and corruption over the past decade that have seen a handful of former officials fined and banned from any further involvement in the game by governing body Fifa.

The OFC is one of six regional confederations making up Fifa and its membership is made up of football authorities from the Pacific, including New Zealand. The highest-placed among its members qualifies for a play-off to enter the quadrennial Football World Cup, with automatic entry to the landmark event for an OFC member scheduled from 2026.

International football has had a torrid time in the recent past, with allegations of corruption over its awarding of World Cup hosting rights and the resignation of former president Sepp Blatter following criminal investigations and prosecutions of bribery and fraud.

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