The plot thickens
In the past week we have learnt that one of the seven FIFA officials arrested in Switzerland, Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and former President of CONCACAF, has opted to deliver himself to the authorities in the US. This is an interesting scenario since it means that the voluntary extradition may signal a readiness to make a deal with the authorities thereby agreeing to deliver some information that may be deemed pertinent to the wider case that the latter may be making against the top echelons of FIFA.We have also learnt that the US authorities have prepared their case for the extradition of Austin ‘Jack’ Warner and that the official request may have been made during the course of this week. Some suggest that the case against Warner has benefitted from information garnered from those already arrested for some time including his former CONCACAF General Secretary, Chuck Blazer, and Warner’s two sons, Daryll and Daryan.
Untangling the web
It is interesting that the web started to unravel when Chuck Blazer was brought in by the US authorities on a number of charges including tax evasion, bribery and money laundering. In the melee a tremendous amount of information surfaced. We have recently had the benefit of the revelation of Blazer’s plea bargain, made on 25 November 2013, by the United States Department of Justice (Case 1:13-cr-00602-RJD Document 19 Filed 06/03/15).
While many had their own suspicions of what Blazer may have said to the authorities it is only after the startling revelations contained in the court documents that we know for certain.
It is interesting to note that two years ago Blazer stated in court…
From 1997 through 2013, I served as a FIFA executive committee member. One of my responsibilities in that role was participating in the selection of the host countries for the
World Cup. I also served as General Secretary of C0NCACAF from 1990 through December of 2011, and was responsible for, among other things, participating in the negotiations for sponsorship and media rights.
During my association with FIFA and C0NCACAF, among other things, I and others agreed that I or a co-conspirator would commit at least two acts of racketeering activity.
Among other things, I agreed with other persons in or around 1992 to facilitate the acceptance of a bribe in conjunction with the selection of the host nation for the 1998 World Cup.
Beginning in or about 1993 and continuing through the early 2000s, I and others agreed to accept bribes and kickbacks in conjunction with the broadcast and other rights to the 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2003 Go1d Cups.
Beginning in or around 2004 and continuing through 2011, I and others on the FIFA executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa as the host nation for the 2010 World Cup.
The foregoing information is particularly damaging and one can only imagine that when the names of the other individuals involved were disclosed that the web of deceit and corruption expanded significantly. But this information related only to the first count on which Blazer was charged.
In respect of the second count he stated… Between April of 2004 and May 2011 , I and others who were fiduciaries to both FIFA and CONCACAF, in contravention of our duties, I and others, while acting in our official capacities, agreed to participate in a scheme to defraud FIFA and CONCACAF of the right to honest services by taking undisclosed bribes.
I and others agreed to use e-mail, telephone, and a wire transfer into and out of the United States in furtherance of the scheme. Funds procured through these improper payments passed through JFK Airport in the form of a check.
On the third count Blazer stated… Between December 2008 and May 2011, I and others agreed to and transmitted funds by wire transfer and checks from places within the United States to places in the Caribbean, and from places in the Caribbean to places in the United States. I agreed to and took these actions to, among other things, promote and conceal my receipt of bribes and kickbacks. I knew that the funds involved were the proceeds of an unlawful bribe, and I and others used wires, e-mails, and telephone to effectuate payment of and conceal the nature of the bribe. Funds procured through these improper payments passed through JFK Airport in the form of a check.
Blazer’s plea bargain saw him agree to work with the law enforcement authorities of the US. He is now known to have agreed to secretly tape several important FIFA meetings. The information so gathered must prove a treasure trove for the authorities and may have been key to the arrests made in Zurich in May of this year. In return for his extensive cooperation Blazer avoided serving what could easily have been a 75-year sentence in jail.
The timing of the revelation of Blazer’s 2013 court presentation is significant and gives the international sport fraternity a better insight into the insidious operations of a major sporting organization.
We are unaware of precisely what Warner’s sons have declared in their own cases before the US courts but it is understood that some sort of plea bargaining may have taken place.
Since the arrest of the seven key FIFA officials in Zurich we have had a continuous flow of information highlighting the level of corruption that has become a veritable culture within the international governing body of the world’s most popular sport.
CONCACAF features prominently among he arrested persons in the US latest action on FIFA.
The CONCACAF persons involved are: Warner, former president of CONCACAF; Jeffrey Webb, former president of CONCACAF; Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, Julio Rocha of Nicaragua and Costas Takkas, former Webb’s attaché and general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Federation.
Many now raise the important question as to whether or not Caribbean football federations ever questioned the operations of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), CONCACAF and FIFA over the years.
Was it a question of merely being satisfied with the fact that monies were flowing like water to these institutions?
Was it that some of the leaders in the region were themselves seeking to ingratiate themselves with the FIFA big wigs so that they too could be elevated in the overall scheme of things at one level or another?
For decades individuals and some organisations questioned the operations of FIFA only to be chastised by the supporters of the ruling regime in the sport.
At the regional and continental level of the sport of football, it was common for individuals and organisations that raised questions about the operations to be ostracized.
It was therefore the case that virtually all levels of FIFA there was apparent agreement to preserve the status quo.
Now we have the spectre of a number of CONCACAF officials being caught up in the expanding web.
Warner continues to insist on his innocence while Webb, recently extradited to the US has pleaded not guilty. According to the Irish Times published on Sunday 19 July 2015…
He was released on a $10 million (about €9.2 million) bond co-signed by family members.
The four co-signers present in court, his wife and her parents and grandmother, were advised by the judge of the gravity of their financial undertaking.
The bond was secured by 10 properties, three cars, a case of jewellery and watches belonging to Webb and his wife, and financial assets, including his $401,000 (about €370,0000) retirement account.
As Webb’s case is heard we can expect to have more revelations of the happenings at FIFA and hopefully significant details about the operations of CONCACAF and the CFU.
The startling revelations of corruption at FIFA thus far have given cause for much concern.
The award of the FIFA World Cup to South Africa has been thrown into question and no one seems capable of revealing precisely what kind of programme Warner was supposed to have had to which the South African millions would have contributed.
Is it at all possible to believe that FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, was unaware of all that had been happening in and around his organisation and its constituents?
The award to Russia of the 2018 World Cup has also been challenged.
Of course the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar is the most incredible. It is difficult to believe that no one thought of the weather conditions in Qatar in the months during which the competition is usually organised until after the decision as made to award the country the mega event.
FIFA is now a highly tainted international sports organisation. It is not the first to be caught up in this kind of web nor will it be the last. What is certain is that it may well prove to have been involved in the most systematic corruption in global sporting history.
Blatter’s own mouthings as to whether he is going or staying on as president of the beleaguered organisation when so much has been revealed as corrupt practices in FIFA under his watch seems all to remarkable and embarrassing.
It is to be agreed that he may well be lacking the moral authority to lead the process of change needed by FIFA.
Many of the sponsors of football have begun to make their views known. To what extent they will seek to influence the decision-making process in the sport that brings them so much global exposure is anybody’s guess. For them the bottom line may well remain profits derived from association with the sport and its organisation, FIFA and that may well allow them to sweep everything that has happened under the magic carpet.