When 'no comment' is the wrong comment

 “The Cayman Islands: A sunny place for shady people.”

For decades, that’s been the world’s unofficial motto for our country, ever since we emerged from the Caribbean Sea as an international hub for financial services. For nearly as long, we have been attempting to shed that title, by being among the first to sign international agreements on compliance and transparency, by honing our judicial system to ensure that even the most complex disputes can be determined equitably within a predictable legal framework, and by spending millions of dollars each year to project an image of Cayman as a dependable business partner in the global economy.

All that we have painstakingly built now faces great peril, in the form of the still-combusting FIFA scandal, at the center of which is our own Jeffrey Webb, the now-former head of football in the region who has been charged in U.S. federal court on 15 counts, including racketeering, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering and money laundering conspiracy.

The essence of the allegations is that Mr. Webb (and his attaché Costas Takkas, himself a longtime Cayman resident and former general secretary for Cayman football), along with more than a dozen other FIFA officials, sports marketing executives and businessmen, participated in a corruption and racketeering scheme to ensure that certain companies received commercial and media rights to international football tournaments, including the World Cup, in exchange for more than US$150 million in bribes, with millions of dollars finding their way into Cayman-domiciled financial entities.

The calculus is not complicated: Earth’s most popular sport. Inconceivable amounts of money. Corruption at the highest levels. All involving the Caribbean’s notorious “Treasure Islands.” This makes for a sensational media narrative that will only strengthen with time. Page One of Sunday’s New York Times included this headline: “How the Cayman Islands Became a FIFA Power.”

This reputational stain, we fear, will only spread. Consider Mr. Webb’s nearest associates. Canover Watson, who has been charged locally with fraud and money laundering in relation to a Cayman police probe into the Health Services Authority’s CarePay system, is the former treasurer of CONCACAF.

*Mr. Watson’s Admiral Administration shares the same roof (90 Fort Street, in George Town) as Mr. Webb’s local CONCACAF office. Further, as is revealed in the Compass today, Mr. Webb and Mr. Watson are residential neighbors as well with nearly next-door mansions on Adel Drive in the small town of Loganville, Georgia.

Also, consider that Cayman’s health and sports minister at the time the CarePay deal was struck in late 2010, former MLA Mark Scotland, joined the Cayman Islands Football Association, working for Mr. Webb, just last year. Mr. Scotland’s wife Cindy, of course, has been the head of Cayman’s financial regulator, the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, since 2002. Mr. Scotland was in Switzerland with the CONCACAF delegation at the time of Mr. Webb’s arrest.

Given the gravity of the allegations against Mr. Webb, his intimacy with our country’s political elite, and the magnitude of the global media storm that is still gathering strength, our leaders in both business and government should be stepping forward to declare with one stentorian voice that Cayman will not tolerate corruption and financial shenanigans on our shores.

Their response to date: Near silence. The author of the New York Times article, Jeré Longman (and his photographer) on Friday stopped by (unannounced) the office of the publisher of the Compass. They had just come from the Legislative Assembly where our elected members had convened for Finance Committee. No one would talk to them.

“What is going on in this country?” Mr. Longman asked.
Good question. We’d like to know, too.

*Editor’s Note: Clarification — Company officials indicate that Mr. Watson was terminated as managing director of Admiral Administration in Cayman in November 2014.*

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NO COMMENTS

  1. It is important to not make any unofficial comments about ongoing legal matters. Also, I do recall a previous article where the Mr. McLaughlin indicated that he was monitoring the situation and I am confident that he will say something further on the matter as soon as he is in a position to do so.

    I also don”t like the way that some of the connections between individuals are being made in this article as there is, at this stage, no suggestion of any wrongdoing by anyone other than Mr. Webb as it relates to the ongoing investigation.

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  2. This is going to be the one that teaches us all, what I was told by my parents long time ago, honesty is the best of policy. I think that this greed and corruption has not only destroyed the feature for the kids , but also what our fore fathers handed down to us too . All I can say this is not in the hands of Cayman politicians or Judges, justice and time will be served.

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  3. Mr Jackson, like I say this is not in the hands of Cayman politicians and judges and D.O.J , the people that are in charge will follow the paper trail and every other trail they can follow.

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  4. Maybe part of the RESIDENCY test should include naming at least five Cayman political or business leaders who have been indicted for corruption.

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  5. Mr Boland , I am sure that the Cayman Compass can verify that he said he was monitoring but could not comment at this time. I hope that he soon do comment on this disgraceful scandal.

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  6. I have been coming to the Cayman Islands since the early ’80s for the beautiful islands and people and the wonderful scuba diving. A long time ago, the U.S. Immigration and Customs officials would look at the many Cayman stamps on my passport and question me about making use of the Cayman banks for illegal purposes. There was no reason to ask me those questions except CI’s old reputation. That has not happened in many, many years. I hope it does not start anew following these allegations of Cayman banks involved in the FIFA episode. One question–did any of the accused make political contributions to CI’s leaders? In Chicago, that would keep the politicians silent about these alleged crimes.

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