photo from oceania football

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand Police’s serious fraud office has begun an investigation into former leading figures in the Oceania Football Confederation in response to a complaint by world governing body FIFA.

The fraud office confirmed the investigation Thursday after inquiries by New Zealand’s Fairfax Media.

Fairfax reported that one of the people under investigation is former OFC president David Chung, who rose from the chairmanship of the Papua New Guinea football federation to become one of the most powerful figures in world football, deputy to FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

Chung resigned from the OFC in 2018 citing personal reasons shortly before a damning audit report was presented to the confederation’s executive committee. In March, 2019 FIFA banned Chung from having any involvement in football for 6 1-2 years after its ethics committee found him guilty of “having offered and accepted gifts” and having “conflicts of interest.”

Former OFC general secretary Tai Nicholas was banned for eight years in May, 2019 after the ethics committee found he had misappropriated funds allocated by FIFA towards the construction of an OFC “Home of Football” in Auckland, and for accepting gifts in violation of the ethics code.

In a statement at the time FIFA said “the investigation into Mr. Nicholas concerned the misappropriation of FIFA funds allocated to the OFC between 2014 and 2017 in relation to the OFC Home of Football, as well as to various undue benefits accepted from or offered to several football officials and other individuals.”

FIFA advanced $10 million to the OFC towards the construction of the complex which was to include offices, playing fields and training facilities. But the building project was over budget when it stalled in 2018.

In subsequent litigation by building contractors against the OFC, courts heard allegations of misuse of funds by Chung and Nicholas.

Lawyers for Chung and Nicholas have refused to comment on the investigation.