5 February 2019

Kenya: Former Harambee Stars Defender Caught in Match Fixing Scandal

Photo: Chris Omollo/Daily Nation
George Owino (left) celebrates with Sofapaka coach Stewart Hall during a past match.

World football governing body Fifa has launched investigations into serious match-fixing allegations against a Harambee Stars player who is said to have been paid millions of shillings to throw away the Kenya national team's matches.

In a 10-page preliminary investigation report seen by the Nation Sport, Fifa has established a prima facie case against defender George Owino Audi for potentially committing breaches of the world football governing body's Code of Ethics between June 2009 and 2011.

According to the Federation of International Football Associations (Fifa) report released in September 2018, Owino, through 177 email communications exchanged between him and high-profile international match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, conspired to manipulate and influence the result of international matches involving Kenya.

Fifa says Owino, 37, agreed to commit himself and several unidentified Harambee Stars players to play under instruction from Perumal.

Details of the 14 matches mentioned in the evidence are currently in possession of the Fifa Integrity Department, which contacted Football Kenya Federation (FKF) on August 10, 2018 requesting Owino's contacts. FKF responded 10 days later.

Further, Fifa's integrity unit investigators claim that Owino was part of a conspiracy to approach and recruit several Kenya national team players for match manipulation purposes, and allegedly accepted and solicited money from Perumal in exchange for influencing the results of the matches.

Fifa also says Owino conspired with Perumal to seek recruitment into an unidentified football club in Australia, where the two planned to manipulate matches in exchange for more money.

"I have an offer for you to play in Australia," read Perumal's proposal to Owino on March 25, 2010. "You've to stay quiet about this. The league starts in August and I will sign you up in June 2010. Stay away from other clubs."

"Do you want to play for my club? It has to be confidential," Perumal reiterated a day later, on March 26, 2010.

Owino replied: "Yes, the one you said is in Australia and hope is good for the business."

Perumal, who has previously been sentenced to prison in Finland and Hungary for match-fixing crimes, wrote an email to Owino sharing his intentions to commit match manipulation once he joined his new club in Australia by stating:

"The purpose I'm going to bring you there is for business, but you have to remain loyal to me only. Remain free. Salary each month is $30,000 (Sh3 million). If I say lose, you do as I say, or else you won't see your salary."

Owino replied via email on March 29, 2010, seemingly accepting Perumal's offer and acknowledging his intentions to commit match manipulation by stating:

"Fine, no problem, because even I want a good life for my family, so I will do as you say." He then asked for further details about travel to Australia.

"We will sign the takeover of the club by end of this month. You are expected to arrive by the second week of May," Perumal replied.

The 2010 Fifa World Cup qualifier between Kenya and Tunisia, played on October 11, 2009, is among those said to have been manipulated.

However, it appears that Owino did not follow instructions, and so chances are he was not paid.

"You've to make up your mind if you want money or result," Perumal warned Owino in advance. "Note that if you lose by 1-0 to Tunisia you will end up with nothing. I want a 3-0 score line. I expect the score to be 2-0 in a normal game, but with your assistance I can get a 3-0 scoreline."

The mail was addressed to two other Kenya national team players named as Julius and Pascal.

"I want you to put a good fight for 25 minutes and concede one goal in first half from 30-45 minutes, another at the 65th minute, and the third in the 80th."

"F... (expletive) the game and take the money; $25,000 (Sh2.5m) is a lot of money," Perumal offered on September 17, 2009 via email.

On October 1, 2009, Perumal broke down the payments to Owino: "I understand we have four players. I will send my men with $75, 000 (Sh7.5m) for three of you and $15,000 (Sh1.5m) for the new player. You will get to see the money before the match. You give me what I want in the match and you will collect your money afterwards."

Two days later, on October 3, he wrote again to Owino, this time promising to honour his pledge.

"I am an honest man who would like to see you have enough money to feed your family and send your kids to good school. You give penalty, I pay you $5,000 (Sh500,000)."

Owino replied to Perumal on the same day, promising to lose the game for Harambee Stars: "Listen, my friend. We are serious and ready for business. We promise you that we won't let you down. Trust us because we are there for you, and you for us. Have faith in us. Just send your man."

Kenya lost the match to Tunisia 1-0, against Perumal's orders to the team.

Fifa also says that Owino conspired with Perumal to manipulate matches of the Nile Basin Tournament in Egypt in 2011. Perumal offered $60,000 (Sh6 million) for Kenya to lose its fixtures. Owino told Perumal he was not in the Kenyan team to Egypt, but would recruit two players on the squad and earn a commission.

"Give me the name of a player I can trust and make things work. I will send my guys there," Perumal demanded. Owino gave the name of a defender.

Fifa notes that, based on this and other evidence, Owino participated in the conspiracy to manipulate the results of international matches involving Harambee Stars between June 2009 and March 2011.

The football governing body also notes that Owino appears to have become "a trusted collaborator and intermediary of a professional match-fixer".

DENIED KNOWLEDGE OF THE CLAIMS

Owino, who left Mathare United after his contract expired in December last year, said he knew nothing about the investigations when contacted for comment by the Nation Sport on Monday.

"Let's wait for Fifa to call me over the same then I can speak. For now I do not know anything. I am hearing it from you for the first time," he said.

FKF secretary-general Robert Muthomi distanced himself from the ongoing investigations, saying he was "not at liberty to comment until the case is concluded by the Fifa Ethics chamber".

Fifa had not responded to our request for an update on these investigations by the time we went to press last evening.

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