Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
AN Asian match-fixer, who is part of a cartel accused by ZIFA of plotting to fix Zimbabwe’s 2017 Nations Cup qualifiers against Swaziland and manipulating games in the South African Premiership, plunged back into the underworld business just 10 weeks after walking out of a British jail for fixing matches in the English Conference League.
For the first time since this scandal broke last week, The Herald can exclusively reveal today that Chann Sankaran, a Singaporean who was only released from a British jail in December last year, was part of the cartel that ZIFA and their whistleblower claim was plotting to fix the Warriors’ 2017 Nations Cup qualifiers against Swaziland on Easter weekend.
Sankaran might be the mystery mastermind, referred to as the “Chief”, by the whistleblower whose explosive documents triggered the volcanic eruption of a scandal that has rocked Zimbabwe and South African football.
According to exclusive documents gleaned by The Herald, Sankaran was even introduced to Zimbabwe international goalkeeper George Chigova, accused by ZIFA and their whistleblower as being a central figure in the match-fixing scandal, by former Warriors’ coach Ian Gorowa in a dark parking lot in South Africa.
A former member of the FIFA anti-corruption crack team, specialising in fighting match-fixing, said that for Sankaran to plunge back into the match-fixing underworld, just 10 weeks after being released from jail, provided confirmation that this cancer wasn’t going to be defeated easily.
Sankaran was jailed for five years after conspiracy to bribery after he was found guilty of working, in collaboration with Krishan Ganeshan, and former footballer, Michael Boateng, to try and fix matches in the English lower leagues.
He had barely spent a year in England when he was arrested after a sting operation in which the Daily Telegraph played a key role in recording the plot.
“I am satisfied you were at the head of this conspiracy, you two were the controlling minds,” Judge Melbourne Inman said to Sankaran and Ganeshan.
“The two of you came to this country in November last year, for the sole reason of visiting clubs to find players you could corrupt to fix matches.
“Professional football and sport play an important part in national life and individuals’ lives in this country.
“Those who make determined attempts to destroy its integrity for personal gain must expect significant prison sentences so when such acts are discovered a clear signal is sent to others.”
The judge said the duo had clearly targeted lower division football clubs because the cost of bribing the players “on their modest wages” was cheaper than approaching players from the higher leagues.
Sankaran was deported soon after serving his jail term and, just 10 weeks later, he was in South Africa plotting to fix matches in the country’s top-flight league and, according to ZIFA, also rigging the 2017 Nations Cup qualifiers between Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
Yesterday, the whistleblower who blew the cover on the scandal, provided a warned-and-cautioned statement to the police as the country’s law enforcement forces moved in to deal with the case.
The whistleblower claims that suspended ZIFA board member, Edzai Kasinauyo, former ZIFA chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya and former Warriors’ coach, Ian Gorowa, were part of the cartel.
Rushwaya claims she was working undercover, to nail the match-fixers, while Gorowa and Kasinauyo have denied being part of the cartel to fix matches.
Arubi, whom the match-fixer-turned-whistleblower claims flatly rejected an offer made to him at the University of Pretoria training ground to corrupt him, was relegated to the substitutes’ bench when his team drew 1-1 against Bidvest Wits on Saturday.
Rushwaya claims, in her report, Arubi pocketed some “commitment fees” from the match-fixers but refused to play to their tune.
Another player named by the whistleblower, Bloemfontein Celtic goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb, was in goals when his team lost to Free State Stars 1-2 yesterday.
Neal Collins, the veteran South African football writer who writes a column for The New Age newspaper, said this was “match-fixing in its purest form”, and warned the scandal will “create waves in South Africa.”
He questioned whether there was a link between Siwelele’s pathetic run, this season, to the alleged corruption in their camp.
“Bloemfontein Celtic ‘keeper Patrick Tignyemb and defensive midfielder Lansthene Phalane are also implicated, which might help to explain Siwelele’s worrying slide down the PSL table,” wrote Collins.
“There is also mention of Chippa United defender Mbuyiselo Sambo, who apparently agreed to help lose a game against Free State Stars.
“Clearly, this is serious. Some kind of response should emanate from SAFA House or Parktown.
“Match-fixing in its purest form. We wait SAFA’s response with some trepidation.” What has generated anger in domestic football circles is the whistleblower’s claims that their beloved Warriors were supposed to lose to Swaziland, just to inflate the bank balances of the match-fixers, in a campaign where the national team has a very good chance of qualifying for the Nations Cup finals.
Chigova’s Facebook page has been hit by messages from fans who want to know if he, indeed, agreed to be part of a cartel to fix the national team games as claimed by the whistleblower.
“It was agreed that the first player to be approached was to be Tatenda Mukuruva,” the whistleblower said in his statement.
“On or around the 16th of February 2016, Ian Gorowa contacted Tatenda Mukuruva in the presence of Rushwaya and myself at Dros restaurant in Hatfield, Pretoria, to initiate negotiations with Mukuruva on the pretext of inviting him for trials in South Africa.
“It was agreed that we would wait for the national team coach (Callisto Pasuwa) to announce his squad and then we would approach three players, preferably two defenders and the goalkeeper.
“Ian Gorowa indicated that we had to target Tatenda Mukuruva the goalkeeper most likely to be the first choice. However, in the event that George Chigova was selected as the first choice, it was even going to be easier because he is Ian Gorowa’s asset.
“It was agreed that an advance team would be dispatched to Mbabane before the team’s arrival to lie in wait. The group later agreed to have me courier the money to the players in Mbabane since Nation Dube (Warriors’ assistant coach) had failed to discharge that task properly in Rwanda during the CHAN tournament leaving the targeted players disgruntled.
“Edzai Kasinauyo undertook to use his designated portfolio as Executive Member (ZIFA) to retrieve the list of players selected for national duty and promptly transmit it to facilitate arrangements with the chosen players while also guaranteeing that he would influence the referees in the return fixture in Zimbabwe to ensure that their plans to fix the match succeeded.
“I attach, hereto, a copy of the screenshot email confirming facts stated above as ‘Annexure G.’ “Kasinauyo further undertook to push for the dismissal of Callisto Pasuwa to pave way for Ian Gorowa so that future assignments would be easier to accomplish.”