FIFA scandal: Cayman football in Webb’s shadow

In the United States, the trial of Jeffrey Webb is over before it began — as he pleaded guilty to seven charges stemming from a U.S. investigation into corruption in world football’s governing body, FIFA. Here in the Cayman Islands, however, the stain of Webb’s legacy is only beginning to become apparent.

Last Thursday, on the same day that former CONCACAF president Webb’s guilty plea was announced, U.S. prosecutors released a new indictment with updated charges in relation to the FIFA scandal. Among the revelations in the new court document is the mention of “a Caymanian attorney” — whose name prosecutors are withholding from the public, but which is known to the relevant U.S. grand jury — accused of holding a bank account, on behalf of Webb intermediary Costas Takkas, to which $80,000 in alleged bribe money was sent.

The new indictment also accuses Webb, along with his CONCACAF predecessor Trinidadian Jack Warner, of embezzling money from FIFA development programs intended to fund youth football. The existence, or extent, of any fraud occurring in local Cayman football remains, at this point, unclear.

That uncertainty is a major problem. It is a poisonous cloud enveloping youth sports, which should be the purest of endeavors.

We applaud Sports Minister Osborne Bodden and local football figure Renard Moxam for standing up and making known publicly their opposition to the status quo at CIFA.

In August, Minister Bodden announced government was discontinuing its $130,000 annual grant to CIFA because “the government has a vested interest in ensuring public funds are spent properly for the good of football development in these islands.” As a Compass reporter wrote in a front-page story in Monday’s newspaper, Minister Bodden is holding firm on that divestment until CIFA can demonstrate “it had cleaned up its act and elected new leadership.”

Minister Bodden wants to see a full forensic audit of CIFA’s books to determine how the association has been spending the money it has received.

A press release from CIFA sent Monday indicated the group would provide Minister Bodden with audited financial statement dating back to 2001.

For his part, Mr. Moxam wants the CIFA leadership from the “Webb era” to step down and is calling for the election of an entirely new administrative regime.

If it turns out to be true that money was “misappropriated” from Cayman football, it would not constitute “a victimless crime.” The people being robbed would be the coaches volunteering their time and their own resources, a generation of local children who were not allowed to reach their full athletic potential, and, if government money was involved, every single taxpayer in this country.

In the deal struck with American authorities, Webb admitted guilt to racketeering, money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy, not embezzlement from FIFA programs. As part of his plea, he agreed to forfeit more than US$6.7 million, and he could also face up to 20 years in prison.

Webb’s sentencing date is set for June 3, 2016. That, incidentally, falls on the anniversary of the publication of a Compass editorial that took a strong stance against corruption in Cayman and called for a complete investigation into all FIFA-related matters — and which was the subject of some controversy after its publication.

Minister Bodden fears that more local figures will be implicated in the FIFA scandal before U.S. authorities conclude their inquiry. We fear his fear may be warranted.

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  1. In addition to the general funding of the football association there are two major CIFA projects that need to be looked at in any forensic audit.

    The first is obviously the Centre for Excellence. The ground breaking ceremony for that took place in June 2008 with a projected budget of 10 million dollars. Over seven years down the road it is still unfinished but nobody seems to know where all the money has gone.

    The other project, the upgrading of local pitches to FIFA Two Star standard, was a lot more successful but the logic behind it still remains unclear. When this was announced in 2007 I remember questions being asked about whether it was money well spent but by then it was already a done deal. Again we are over seven years along from this but how much did it actually cost and has anyone (apart obviously from the contractors who did the work) really benefitted from it?

  2. The Attorney General of the USA thinks this is important and have found corruption in our country. And we stick our heads in the sand and hope it passes.

    If we want to the world to trust us, we should be able to clean up our own house.