Gabon football chief detained in paedophilia scandal

football05 May 2022 17:29| © AFP
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© Pierre-Alain Mounguengui

The head of the Gabonese Football Federation (Fegafoot) has been detained after being charged with failing to report alleged sexual abuse of hundreds of children within the sport, his lawyer told AFP on Thursday.

Fegafoot President Pierre-Alain Mounguengui faces charges of "failing to denounce crimes of paedophilia" and was placed in detention on Thursday after being temporarily held in custody, attorney Charles-Henri Gey said.

The scandal, revealed by Britain's Guardian newspaper in December, snowballed after a well-known youth coach, Patrick Assoumou Eyi, was held on accusations of sexually abusing hundreds of children over a scale of years.

Assoumou Eyi coached the national under-17 team until 2017 and was technical director of the football league in Estuaire, the province that includes the capital Libreville.

Since his arrest, two other club coaches, Orphee Mickala and Triphel Mabicka, have been detained and charged with the same offences, which carry up to 30 years' jail on conviction.

Gey said Mounguengui contested the accusation and his attorneys would ask for him to be bailed.

The 64-year-old had been re-elected as Fegafoot's president for a third term on April 16.

"This is crazy – at this moment, no victim has been identified," Gey said.

"This affair is just a pretext for removing Pierre-Alain Mounguengui as president of Fegafoot."

Fifa on Tuesday opened a disciplinary inquiry into the three coaches and Mounguengui.

The case has gained much political traction since it exploded into public view, spurred also by charges of sexual abuse in January against leading taekwondo coach Martin Avera.

President Ali Bongo Ondimba said the accusations surrounding Assoumou Eyi were "very serious and unacceptable" and ordered the government to open an inquiry into all of Gabon's sports federations "to eradicate potential sexual predators."