October 2, 2023

Harmon will try his case at CAS: “It’s a witch hunt”

The former CIFA President, Lee Harmon, hits back at OFC after six year ban. The OFC denies all allegations.

Lee Harmon (Photo: OFC Media)

The Cook Islands Football Association President, Lee Harmon was banned for six years from all football activities by the OFC on August 23rd, for breaching a number of articles of the OFC Code of Ethics. The initial press release only stated which articles he violated, but not how.

In a response to Football in Oceania, the OFC clarifies that what Harmon has been banned for, directly relates to OFC activities.

“The decision (by the Disciplinary and Ethics Committee) has been redacted and OFC cannot release the full copy of the decision made by the OFC Disciplinary and Ethics Committee,” Steffi Ah Yuk, OFC Head of Commercial & Communications, wrote in an email to Football in Oceania.

However, she did share the reasons why Harmon has been banned. They are as follow:

  • Breach of Articles 13, 15, 20 and 21 – Mr Harmon accepted a gift from OFC of flights for him and his wife to attend David Chung’s (former OFC President) wedding in China on 13 February 2014;
  • Breach of Articles 13, 15, 20 and 21 – Mr Harmon made arrangements for his wife and an individual to have flights paid for by OFC when they were not on OFC business.
  • Breach of Articles 13, 15, 19 and 21 – Mr Harmon approved large salary increases for the OFC President and management as an Emergency Committee member in 2017;
  • Breach of Articles 13, 15, 19 and 21 – Mr Harmon signed an employment contract for David Chung with a higher salary package than had been approved by the Emergency Committee or the Executive Committee.
  • Breach of Articles 13(4), 15 and 19 – Mr Harmon used solicitors of the OFC for personal purposes and attempted to have OFC pay for the personal advice that he received.”

Harmon rejects decision

Football in Oceania approached Lee Harmon for a comment on his suspension.

In a press release Harmon says he categorically rejects the decision of the OFC.

“OFC failed to respect a previous decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) and the NZ High Court which relates to Mr. Harmon. Harmon will once again take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. OFC has embarked on a personal campaign to see that Harmon never return to OFC,” the press release reads.

Harmon also claims the OFC owes him $110,0000 “since they lost the CAS proceedings in Executive Committee allowances”. The press release notes that this is the same sum that Harmon himself was fined by the OFC.

“There is clearly a concerted effort by OFC to ensure that I do not return to OFC and serve as CIFA President. Each time I am sanctioned by OFC, my innocence is confirmed by CAS and the High Court. I am confident once again that I will be cleared by CAS,” Harmon says in the press release.

He blames OFC General Secretary, Franck Castillo, and calls it a “witch hunt” and “conspiracy”.

“The main perpetrator behind this whole saga is OFC General Secretary, Franck Castillo who should resign from his position. Franck Castillo has undermined the Cook Islands Football Association administration through the former Just Play manager. I will in the coming days release communications he made where he is in breach of OFC and FIFA rules, and you can be the judge.”

“I will not stop fighting this personal vendetta led by Mr Castillo and OFC. Some of the charges against me involved the current OFC President, Lambert Maltock and several OFC Executive members who were not charged, however I have been personally targeted. It is clearly a witch hunt and conspiracy.”

OFC deny allegations

Football in Oceania asked the OFC for a comment about the allegations against the governing body, its general secretary and president.

They deny all allegations.

“OFC categorically rejects the unfounded allegations made by Lee Harmon following his sanctioning by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the OFC Disciplinary and Ethics Committee for numerous breaches of OFC’s Code of Ethics, where he was banned for 6 years from taking part in any kind of football related activity at the national, regional, and international level, fined $110,000, and ordered to pay costs of $40,910,” they say in a statement.

“The substance of the allegations made by Mr Harmon against Mr Castillo were earlier considered by the Investigatory Chamber of the Disciplinary and Ethics Committee, who dismissed them at the first stage as failing to establish a prima facie case.  Similar allegations against OFC were made before the Adjudicatory Chamber, and again dismissed as having no basis.“

“The decision of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Disciplinary and Ethics Committee is completely unrelated to Mr Harmon’s Court of Arbitration for Sport Appeal and related High Court proceeding.  Those proceedings concerned the interpretation of the then OFC Statutes and Mr Harmon’s eligibility to remain on the OFC Executive Committee following his sanctioning by FIFA Ethics for breaches of their ethics rules concerning the re-sale of World Cup tickets.”

Harmon is no longer Cook Islands FA President after the ban. When asked if the OFC will oversee a new election, Steffi Ah Yuk at the OFC says CIFA is an independent body and that a new election will be overseen by FIFA. According to Radio New Zealand, the CIFA board will meet to discuss matters this week.

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