A joint investigation by BBC Sport Africa and Norway’s Josimar magazine can reveal some of the background which led to one of world football’s most senior figures being questioned by French authorities. He was interviewed, but not detained nor charged, in Paris last week.
At its heart lies a little-known company that Confederation of African Football (Caf) President Ahmad introduced to his organisation. France-based Tactical Steel has become a key supplier of equipment to Caf, including for this month’s Africa Cup of Nations, despite not appearing to offer football equipment on its website.
Ever since documents leaked earlier this year highlighted a deal made in 2017 – the year Ahmad took office – between Caf and French company Tactical Steel, the Caf president’s role has been under scrutiny.
The deal in December 2017 was notable as Caf cancelled an order worth 210,217 euros ($248,055; £186,899) with sportswear company Puma to take up an alternative order with Tactical Steel for $1,015,313. The Puma deal included a 60% discount.
Caf says it wanted to use a different sports brand to Puma but when the desired equipment – football and kits – could not apparently be obtained in time from a local manufacturer, Tactical Steel was appointed to provide them instead.
The switch to a new and unfamiliar supplier attracted attention.
Caf insiders say it is unusual for the African football body to buy sports equipment through a third party, rather than deal directly with major sports manufacturers as has happened regularly in the past.
Media reports suggest the orders – for the African Nations Championship (Chan) in Morocco in January 2018 – were identical but BBC Sport Africa and its Norwegian collaborator Josimar have been told this was not the case.
Ahmad has told us that the Puma deal was for 13,378 non-branded items and the Tactical Steel deal for 35,460 branded items, but documents we’ve seen suggest the difference between the orders was much smaller: the Puma deal being for just over 15,000 and the Tactical Steel one for just over 22,000.
When asked by BBC Sport Africa if the Fifa vice-president, 59, had cancelled the Puma deal and personally approved one with Tactical Steel instead, a statement from Ahmad’s public relations company said: “These accusations are totally false, malicious and defamatory.
“They are part of a vendetta being instigated by a former senior Caf employee against Caf and its president.”
Ahmad’s spokesperson said that it was the Caf administration, not Ahmad as president, which retained and negotiated the equipment prices with Tactical Steel.
They also said the Tactical Steel deal was spread across several years and “not just for Chan 2018”.
A member of Caf’s Executive Committee claimed that proper procedure has not been followed.
“The first time the words Tactical Steel were mentioned at the Executive Committee was by me [in April 2019], when I flagged it that there is this company, which we have hired and paid a huge sum of money to, and the Executive Committee was absolutely unaware,” said Musa Bility.
“Other than that, there is nothing to show that there [is] any presentation in terms of recommendation from the finance committee to the Executive Committee regarding Tactical Steel,” the Liberian told BBC Sport Africa.
Source: BBC Sports