MP: Brits should be ready to assist Cayman FIFA investigations

A British MP and FIFA reform campaigner has called on the U.K. Serious Fraud Office to take a greater role in investigating corruption in the game’s governing body. 

Damian Collins believes the U.K. should offer its assistance to investigators in the Overseas Territories, including the Cayman Islands. 

The MP – who has been pressing fraud investigators to follow up suspicious payments that were routed through the U.K. – told the Cayman Compass he believes British law enforcement should also be prepared to respond to requests for assistance from its overseas territories. 

“I am certainly going to be asking the Serious Fraud Office if they have made contact with the British Overseas Territories,” he said. “They could support them in investigating individuals or transactions.”  

Any assistance from the U.K. would have to involve an official request from Cayman authorities. 

Jurisdictional issues 

“The issue of jurisdiction in the Overseas Territories is an interesting area and it is a point I want to take up with the Serious Fraud Office – if they have been in touch and if they have contacts there,” said Mr. Collins. 

“If the Cayman Islands asks for assistance, the serious fraud office should provide it.” 

Cayman’s Anti-Corruption Commission is currently cooperating with the wider FBI investigation, as well as pursuing its own inquiries into a matter involving the Cayman Islands Football Association. 

Cayman football boss and former FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb was among a number of past and present senior officials arrested in Switzerland earlier this year as American prosecutors revealed wide-ranging allegations of bribery and corruption. 

Costas Takkas, Webb’s attaché at FIFA, a former general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Association and a U.K. citizen, was also arrested and is facing criminal charges. 

Mr. Collins, a Conservative MP and member of the House of Commons Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, believes the U.K. needs to get more involved. 

“I am grateful that the FBI has taken this up,” he said. “They have a broad jurisdiction to investigate payments in U.S. dollars as well as anything going through American banks and American servers. 

“However, I believe there are areas where the Serious Fraud Office in the U.K. should act. We shouldn’t just sit back and leave it to the Americans. All the authorities in the world should be supporting each other to try to expose and root out wrongdoing within FIFA. 

“Football, sadly, is very open to people abusing their positions to enrich themselves.” 

Mr. Collins, speaking before a U.K. parliamentary select committee inquiry into the FIFA scandal last month, said a payment made by the Australian 2022 bid team to Jack Warner, the indicted former president of CONCACAF, was routed via the U.K. and should be investigated by the SFO. At the same hearing, Deborah Unger of Transparency International urged British authorities to do more to investigate. 

“They could use the follow-the-money tools that are already here. Questions do have to be asked. Has any money been spent in the U.K. on luxury goods and services, property for example?” Ms. Unger said, according to U.K. press reports of the hearing. “It is very hard to go after people directly without knowing if the money has come through the U.K. But you can start asking the questions.”

For the Cayman Compass’s full FIFA coverage, visit the Compass Data Desk.

Mr. Collins