All have recused themselves, chairman says
A total of five individuals working for the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority have been identified as having “some connection” to Jeffrey Webb, the Caymanian businessman and ousted FIFA official charged in a U.S. racketeering and bribery investigation that has stunned world football.
Monetary Authority Chairman Grant Stein said Tuesday that all five people, whom he did not name, have recused themselves from any involvement in CIMA’s ongoing review of local transactions related to the U.S.-FIFA probe.
“My understanding is that there are five people at CIMA that have some connection to Jeff Webb,” Mr. Stein said, “all of whom have recused themselves from the review.”
Mr. Stein said he was not entirely aware of all the connections between Webb and the five employees, but as Cayman is a small island, he was not particularly surprised to find that those close connections existed. Most of the connections involved either direct family links or links through marriage, he said.
The issue of conflicts arose in early June, when it was revealed that CIMA Managing Director Cindy Scotland’s husband, former government minister Mark Scotland, has worked since last year for the Cayman Islands Football Association under its president, Webb, and was in Switzerland with Webb at the time of his arrest on May 27. In addition, former government minister Cline Glidden’s wife, Gloria, serves as deputy head of CIMA’s banking division. Mr. Glidden was working for CONCACAF on the creation of a regional football dispute resolution court and was also in Switzerland with Webb for FIFA’s annual meeting prior to the arrests.
Mr. Stein said there were no allegations of wrongdoing against either Mr. Scotland or Mr. Glidden stemming from the FIFA probe.
The new CIMA chairman revealed Tuesday that KRyS Global has been retained by the authority to conduct forensic audits of any transactions linked to Webb or former Cayman resident Costas Takkas, both of whom are charged in the U.S. criminal investigation.
The forensic accountants’ probe will be overseen by a three-person committee of CIMA officials staffed by CIMA’s head of banking Charles Ilako, head of compliance R.J. Berry and Deputy General Counsel Andre Mon Desir. When the review is complete, the committee will present a report relative to the accountants’ findings to CIMA’s “non-executive board” – meaning without CIMA’s managing director being present.
The purpose of appointing the committee, Mr. Stein said, was to separate any investigations CIMA and its forensic accounting consultants conduct into the local financial transactions referenced in the U.S. indictment from whoever in the regulatory authority may have “connections” to Webb, Mr. Stein said.
At least one current and one former Cayman Islands bank, Fidelity and Barclays, were named in connection with the U.S. federal court indictments, although neither bank was accused of wrongdoing in court records.
For the time being, the CIMA committee and its forensic accountants will focus only on the Fidelity Bank transactions identified in the U.S. indictment released on May 27, Mr. Stein said. If there were other areas of concern identified in the course of the review, the investigation could expand, he said.
Top officials at Fidelity Bank in the Cayman Islands confirmed in early June that Webb remained employed at the bank on a part-time consulting contract until the end of 2012, which includes the period when he is alleged to have solicited bribes via intermediaries in exchange for awarding the commercialization rights to certain FIFA football tournaments.
According to U.S. federal court indictments, separate bribe payments funneled through U.S., Hong Kong and Cayman Islands bank accounts were negotiated in 2012 with then-FIFA Vice President Webb and then-CONCACAF General Secretary Enrique Sanz, who is identified in the indictment as “co-conspirator #4.”
The indictment states that the 2012 discussions were to negotiate the media and marketing rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup qualifier matches. These rights were being sought by a U.S. subsidiary of the Brazilian-based Traffic Group – Traffic USA – which wanted to buy the rights from the Caribbean Football Association, federal court records state. Co-conspirator #4 was employed by the Traffic Group at the time, but later in the year became the general secretary of CONCACAF. The chief executive of Traffic USA, Aaron Davidson, is also charged in the U.S. investigation into FIFA.
Near the end of these talks, co-conspirator #4 met with indicted defendant, Takkas, identified as a close associate of Webb’s. The meeting took place in Hungary. “Takkas told co-conspirator #4 that Webb wanted a US$3 million bribe in exchange for the [football union] contract to be awarded to Traffic USA,” the court records state.
It is also alleged that the bribe was split among two companies, Traffic USA and another company identified as “Sports Marketing Company C,” so that each would pay US$1.5 million to Webb. It is further alleged that Traffic USA’s payment was transmitted to Takkas through a Miami bank to an HSBC bank in Buffalo, New York, and eventually transferred to an HSBC bank in Hong Kong.
The indictment alleges that two wire transfers totaling US$1 million were sent from Hong Kong to a correspondent account in New York City for credit to an account in the name of Kosson Ventures – a company controlled by Takkas – at Fidelity Bank in the Cayman Islands. The records state that the remaining US$500,000 owed by Traffic USA was paid into another account controlled by Takkas at Fidelity Bank in the Cayman Islands.
“Takkas subsequently transferred the funds to an account in the name of a swimming pool builder at United Community Bank in Blairsville, Georgia,” the criminal complaint reads. “[This was] for the benefit of the defendant Jeffrey Webb, who was having a pool built at his residence in Loganville, Georgia.”
Federal prosecutors state that Takkas’s participation in the funds transfer was “more intermediary” in nature and was “designed to conceal the fact that Jeffrey Webb was the beneficiary of the payment.”
It was unclear from the indictment whether Webb ever received the other half of the alleged bribe money from “Sports Marketing Company C.”
Webb pleaded not guilty in federal court last month to all the charges against him.