A former Super Eagles coach, Samson Siasia, has sued the world football governing body, FIFA, at a United States court, over the ban on his coaching licence.
In the suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Siasia, also an American citizen, is challenging both the licence ban slammed on him and FIFA’s bribery investigations leading to the sanction.
He said in his court documents, exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, that he was not aware of the bribery charge investigated by FIFA until the verdict imposing a life ban on him was published on August 16, 2019.
“FIFA convicted Siasia for bribery without giving him an opportunity to confront and cross examine adverse witnesses,” the court document reads in part.
Siasia, who raised four charges against FIFA, said he has “suffered and continues to suffer injury to his property right, his reputation as a soccer coach, and emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life.”
The four counts he raised against FIFA are that the ban violates his procedural rights in adjudicatory proceedings, breaches his property right as a U.S. citizen, amounts to intentional infliction of emotional distress on him, and constitutes an act of negligence on the part of FIFA.
He is, therefore, claiming “compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and court costs” against FIFA on each of the counts.
He is also asking for a retraction of the guilty verdict handed down to him by the world football body.
In his legal claims in the suit, Siasia faulted the power of FIFA to investigate bribery, arguing that “Investigating and adjudicating a charge of bribery, a crime, is a function which has traditionally been exclusively the domain of the government.”
According to him, FIFA, created under the laws of Switzerland and having its principal place of business at Hitziweg, ought to have reported the case to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the U.S. Department of Justice instead of undertaking the probe on its own.
“Here, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (“FIFA”), the worldwide governing body of soccer, exercised governmental function when FIFA investigated and adjudicated a charge of bribery, a crime, against Samson Siasia (“Siasia”), a United States citizen, which function has traditionally been exclusively the domain of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Department of Justice, (USDOJ) and the Judicial branch of government or the State government,” he argued.
Siasia, a Nigerian and U.S. citizen residing in Atlanta, Georgia, drew a parallel between his case and another one involving one sportsperson, Lamont Evans.
“Unlike, FIFA, the N.C.A.A. an association which regulates and organises intercollegiate sports in United States, N.C.A.A. did not convict and punish Lamont Evans, the coach involved in the criminal case,” he said.
He added, “It was after the head coach was convicted and sentenced in the U.S. federal court that the N.C.A.A then used the evidence and conviction and sentencing from the criminal case, to discipline the head coach and impose a 10-year ban subject to a showing of cause why the ban should be lifted See, N.C.A.A. press release.”
He also questioned FIFA’s power to bar him from using his coaching licence which was issued to him by U.S. Soccer Federation, which although a member of the world football body, is created under U.S. law.
Bribery allegation and the ban
Siasia’s travails started when he was approached by a match-fixer, Wilson Perumal, in 2010, while seeking a job with an Australian club.
In emails between Perumal and Siasia sighted by PREMIUM TIMES, the Nigerian coach was keen to get the job despite the clauses being pushed by the match-fixer.
“You have a reputation as a silver medalist coach in Beijing Olympics. I wish to be transparent with you in this matter. I am going to take over a club. I want to engage you as the head coach. It is an Australia ‘A’ league team.
“You know my nature of business. I will personally bring in 5 Players and dictate the show. You will do your coaching job and play along. I will not drag you into what I am doing. My players will take instructions from me. You will have just close one eye and do your coaching job. There is no relegation in this league. No one can fire you. What amount will u be asking for as salary,” Perumal said in one of his emails to Siasia.
Siasia sought to know the monetary terms attached even though he was also cautious in his approach.
“Am I going to pay taxes on this amount if agreed and what about signing on fees, accommodation, and car?” Siasia asked.
“Also need to know about flight tickets for me and family. I will be waiting for your soonest response because I have other offers am looking at,” Siasia added in one of the correspondences.
In FIFA’s verdict handed down at the end of the trial, Siasia, who had at different times handled various Nigerian national teams, was barred from coaching for life.
But his punishment was reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) to a five-year ban and his initial 50,000 Swiss Francs fine totally reversed.
While CAS ruled that Siasia did not receive any bribe and did not fix any match, the court said he erred by not reporting the matter when he was asked to fix matches by a club official at a club he sought to coach.
Siasia, through his team of lawyers led by Nitor Egbarin, has now filed his suit to challenge the trial on the bribery charge and the life-ban, as well as the subsequent five-year ban imposed on him.
The Four Charges: Violation of procedural laws
Arguing the charge of violation of his procedural rights, Siasia said he was deprived as a U.S. citizen “procedural due process rights during an adjudicatory proceeding” by not being provided “adequate notice of the bribery charge,” among others.
He said he was not aware of the bribery charge for which FIFA indicted him until FIFA published to the whole world in or around August 16, 2019, convicting and imposing a life ban on him barring him from using the Coach License issued under the laws of the United States.
He said the bribery charge was said to have been sent to his email, but he did not see it because he “used multiple email accounts including a Gmail account and did not always check the several thousands of emails he received.”
By being excluded from the hearing conducted by FIFA, Siasia said he was denied a fair and impartial hearing panel and the opportunity to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses.
He also described the “the punishment of a lifetime ban from use of the Coach License” on him as being “disproportionate to the offence of bribery and was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eight Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Arguing another count against FIFA, he said the ban trespassed his right to use his professional coach license by imposing a lifetime ban from all soccer-related activities, including from being employed as a coach of a national soccer team or soccer club or any soccer team in the world.
Emotional distress and injuries
On the count of intentional infliction of emotional distress, he said FIFA is liable to him for compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and court costs.
Canvassing the count of negligence, he said FIFA’s conduct was “the direct and proximate result of the negligence, carelessness and recklessness” in one or more of ways, including “Failure to properly investigate the bribery charge” as it could and should have done.
He also said FIFA exhibited negligence by failing to give adequate notice of the charge of bribery, and improperly charging a crime of commercial bribery “which is nonexistent in the place the acts occurred.”
According to him, negligence was also exhibited by FIFA by improperly imposing on him “a gross and disproportionate lifetime ban of a professional license for a non-existent bribery crime.”
He also accused FIFA of “engaging in all the other improper and reckless conduct alleged in this complaint.”
Siasia said he has “sustained and suffered personal loss, the full extent and nature of which are presently unknown; pain and suffering, mental anguish; and shock, fear, emotional distress, some or all of which injuries are, or are likely to be, of a permanent nature” as a result of FIFA’s alleged negligent act.
“As a further result of the negligence and carelessness and recklessness” of FIFA, Siasia said he “was forced to incur expenses and costs.”
“As a further result of the negligence and carelessness and recklessness of the defendant, plaintiff’s ability to pursue and enjoy life’s activities has been reduced.
“As a further result thereof, plaintiff, has been, and in the future will likely continue to be, unable to pursue his usual activities to the same extent as he did before the defendant’s acts as aforesaid, all to his loss and detriment,” the document added.
In addition to asking for general and punitive damages against FIFA, Siasia prayed for the annulment of the lifetime ban or any ban on his coach licence.
Other prayers are global public retraction of guilty verdict of accepting a bribe, double or treble damages, attorneys’ fees, and interests and costs.
He also asked for injunctive relief in the form of an order directing FIFA to respect the legal rights of others “and, such other relief as in law or equity may pertain.”
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