A senior New Zealand football figure has been banned for bribery and corruption.
Former FIFA committee member and Oceania Football secretary general Tai Nicholas has been slapped with an eight-year ban from all football-related activities and fined $75,000 by FIFA.
An investigation by world football’s independent ethics committee has found Nicholas guilty of misappropriating FIFA money, as well as offering and accepting gifts and other benefits.
The sum of money – and the gifts involved – have not been made clear.
For years, Nicholas has not only been one of the most powerful people in Kiwi football, but in world sport. Previously the long-term OFC secretary general, he also held privileged positions on FIFA committees in which he represented New Zealand.
Nicholas’ role also meant he regularly attended FIFA’s annual congress in Zurich, Switzerland, where the sport’s biggest powerbrokers decide the future of the game.
Nicholas quit as OFC secretary general last year.
FIFA’s announcement this morning follows it freezing $13.3m funding to the OFC for the development of a “Home of Football” sports facility in Auckland.
In a statement, FIFA said Nicholas had breached its code of ethics for bribery and corruption.
“The adjudicatory chamber of the Independent Ethics Committee has found Mr Tai Nicholas, former General Secretary of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and former FIFA standing committee member, guilty of having misappropriated FIFA funds, as well as having offered and accepted gifts or other benefits, in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics,” the statement said.
“The investigation into Mr Nicholas concerned the misappropriation of FIFA funds allocated to the OFC between 2014 and 2017 in relation to the OFC Home of Football, as well as to various undue benefits accepted from or offered to several football officials and other individuals.
“In its decision, the adjudicatory chamber found that Mr Nicholas had breached art. 21 par. 2 of the 2012 edition of the FIFA Code of Ethics, (Bribery and corruption) and art. 20 of the 2018 edition (Offering and accepting gifts or other benefits), and sanctioned him with a ban from all football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) at both national and international level for eight years. In addition, a fine of CHF 50,000 has been imposed on Mr Nicholas.
“The decision was notified to Mr Nicholas today, the date on which the ban comes into force.”