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FIFA bans African official for 10 years for finance offenses

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA banned a senior African soccer official for 10 years on Wednesday for financial wrongdoing, including taking funds from a campaign tackling Ebola. FIFA said its ethics judges banned Musa Bility, a member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee, for 10 years and fined him 500,000 Swiss francs ($507,200).

In December 2015, Bility was blocked as a FIFA presidential candidate after the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a ruling that he failed an integrity check. That election was won two months later by current president Gianni Infantino.

The Liberian businessman's ban from all soccer duties was announced days after he said he would appeal to sport's highest court against CAF's FIFA-backed plan to send its top administrator from Zurich to oversee the troubled African soccer body.

The court in Lausanne, Switzerland, confirmed Wednesday it had registered Bility's appeal. FIFA's ethics committee has been formally investigating Bility since last May after soccer's world body audited the financial accounts of the Liberian soccer federation (LFA), which he led.

FIFA found conflicts of interest including "various payments made by the LFA to (and received from) entities owned by or connected to Mr. Bility and his family." FIFA also identified "misappropriation of the funds granted under FIFA's '11 against Ebola' campaign." It was launched in 2014 by FIFA working with the World Health Organization, and included Cristiano Ronaldo helping raise awareness of the medical emergency in Africa.

Bility was also suspected of misappropriating money from Liberia's annual grants from FIFA which are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. In recent weeks, after Bility was questioned by FIFA's ethics investigators, he led resistance within CAF's top committee against a plan for FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura, who is from Senegal, effectively running the Cairo-based organization on an initial six-month basis.

Bility said the move breached CAF's legal statutes and would be the basis of his appeal to sport's highest court in Switzerland. It is unclear if he has legal standing to pursue that appeal while banned from all soccer duty.

Bility can also go to CAS to challenge his 10-year ban.

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