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Patel, Son At Gamel Inquiry: Lawyer

Tinaitamana labelled the inquiry a “sham” and demanded Fiji FA make public the details of the investigation process.
31 Mar 2019 11:04
Patel, Son At Gamel Inquiry: Lawyer
Fiji Football president Rajesh Patel

The Fiji Football Association president Rajesh Patel was heavily involved in the team formed to investigate the alleged misconduct of national football coach Christophe Gamel, it has been revealed.

The four-member team also included Fiji FA solicitor Samuel Ram, Patel’s son Dilan Patel and a member of Mr Ram’s law firm, Niven Padarath.

This has been revealed to the Fiji Sun by Ba football lawyer Mohammed Yunus, who accompanied the players to the interview.

Yunus says three national U23 Ba players – namely Kalaveti Sivoi, Kini Madigi and Amena Bola – were interviewed by the team on January 31; while the fourth, Simione Nabenu, was interviewed in February.

It is unclear if the fifth player to accuse Gamel of (alleged) assault, Lautoka’s Sekove Finau, was interviewed.

Yunus says only Rajesh Patel was not present for the second interview, his place on the investigating team taken by another lawyer who he preferred not to name.

Patel has told local media that Gamel has been cleared of all wrongdoing by a committee on the basis of the investigating team’s report.

Siteri Tinaitamana.

Siteri Tinaitamana.

But Siteri Tinaitamana, the mother of Sivoi, has rejected the findings of the inquiry.

Tinaitamana labelled the inquiry a “sham” and demanded Fiji FA make public the details of the investigation process.

She says the public deserve to know who else the team interviewed, who sat on the committee that cleared Gamel and when the committee reached its decision.

Patel had assured an independent inquiry into the allegations would take place and the expectation was that no-one from FFA would be part of it.

Patel was sent an email yesterday requesting his clarification on the composition of the investigating team and a response to Tinaitamana’s comments.

He did not respond. FFA lawyer Samuel Ram instead issued a statement.

He said: “Your information regarding the people in the investigating team is incorrect.

“Mr Dilan Patel is a first-year lawyer in our law firm. He is not part of the investigating team. I usually take him to matters in which I am involved to observe, learn and take notes.”

On Tinaitamana’s comments, Ram added: “Everyone who had a complaint was given an opportunity to either provide a statement in person or to send their complaints in writing to the Fiji FA.

“Any person who now complaints about the investigation procedure or preliminary outcome ought to be asked whether they took up this opportunity.

“If they did not, then anything they say is baseless and defamatory. If Fiji Sun publishes their statements, they may also be liable.”

The Fiji Sun interviewed close to 20 people on the alleged behaviour of the coach.

This included eight players – five U-23 men’s footballers and three female players from the national women’s team who spoke on the condition of anonymity – seven parents, as well as several district and women’s team officials.

The alleged incident with the male players occurred after they allegedly failed a drug test.

They alleged Gamel called them one-by-one inside a room at Ba’s Sahu Khan Academy where he allegedly hit and swore at them on January 16.

They also allege witnesses were present in the room, namely U-23 team manager Anushil Kumar and a member of Gamel’s coaching staff, Marika Rodu.

It is unclear if any witnesses were interviewed by the investigating team.

Christophe Gamel.

Christophe Gamel.

The female players allege Gamel demeaned them on several occasions last year and also at the OFC Women’s Nations Cup in New Caledonia in December.

The parents of one player allege the coach stormed into their house last year and threatened to slap their daughter if she did not attend training.

Patel maintains he will not investigate the claims made by the women because they did not lodge official complaints.

This despite calls by leading women rights activist Shamima Ali and Amnesty International’s Roshika Deo to do so.

What else Fiji FA lawyer Samuel Ram said in response to our questions:

“During the investigation, it was also discovered that the statements published by the Fiji Sun were icorrect.

“People have informed us that some of the comments that they have made in favour of Mr Gamel and FijiFA have not been reported.

“Some people you have named in your articles have informed us that they did not make the statements they were published by Fiji Sun to have made.

“From the evidence that we have, we are of the opinion that Fiji Sun has published reports to defame Mr Gamel and the FijiFA.

“This is also shown by how you have asked questions, the particular tone of your publications and the fact that you are reporting the same story for over 60 days.”

Edited by Leone Cabanatabua

Feedback: sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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