Editorial Year in Review: FIFA, corruption

“Corruption: An insidious, creeping crime,” June 3 

Corruption in a country corrodes, erodes – and eventually destroys. … 

Whether it’s securing a vehicular inspection sticker, an exemption to development regulations, approval for work permits, the support of a particular bloc of voters, or, allegedly, millions of dollars in bribes in relation to sporting events – lurking behind the scenes are shadows of impropriety, influence and inscrutability. 

Because such behavior is so commonplace, we tend to “normalize it,” refusing even to recognize it, or neglecting to see how aberrant it really is. … 

The [financial] industry is so global, and its lifeblood (capital) so fluid, that even a whiff of corruption should not be tolerated or condoned. An exodus of funds away from Cayman could happen in the blink of an electronic eye, bringing about dire economic consequences that would reverberate through the generations. From George Town to ghost town. It could happen. … 

That’s why Cayman’s officials should be calling vociferously for a complete investigation into the allegations, filed in U.S. district court, that Caymanian Jeffrey Webb (amongst others) used his leadership position within regional football as a platform for the perpetration of acts of corruption and money laundering. 

Further, our officials should be locally executing exhaustive inquiries with the goal of identifying any and all illicit activities that may have occurred in relation to the FIFA scandal, involving any Cayman residents or banking institutions – and then exonerating or prosecuting accordingly. When it comes to Cayman’s continuing status as a financial services center of the first class, not even the appearance of corruption can be tolerated. 

“The Webb arrest: Dealing with the reputational fallout,” May 28 

Since becoming an offshore financial center in the 1960s, the Cayman Islands has suffered severe reputational setbacks because of proven, alleged, or fictional criminal conduct. … 

Now, with the arrest in Switzerland of Caymanian Jeffrey Webb and six others on corruption and racketeering charges on FIFA-related matters, the Cayman Islands faces reputational damage which may exceed anything the country has experienced to date. … 

Precisely because football is the world’s sport, the eyes of the entire world are on this scandal and, to some degree, on the Cayman Islands. Unlike the cases of BCCI, Enron and Parmalat, which were of interest primarily to those in international finance, the FIFA scandal has far greater interest. 

As president of CONCACAF, vice president of FIFA, and, locally, as president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, there is no doubt that Jeff Webb has brought much attention (up to this point favorable) and considerable largesse to the Cayman Islands. 

Now that his name and nationality have been associated with high-level corruption and racketeering charges involving the world’s most popular sport, there is no doubt that the Cayman Islands, unfair though it may be, will pay a considerable reputational price as this legal battle continues to unfold. 

“When ‘no comment’ is the wrong comment,” June 1 

“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 … 

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 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. … 

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. 

“Keeping Cayman’s focus on FIFA,” June 12 

The world football scandal continues to draw top billing in the international press, with the Cayman Islands remaining as a central node in the alleged network of bribery, corruption and racketeering. 

In the midst of the ongoing local “Sturm und Drang” regarding this government and this newspaper, it is important that we not lose sight of Cayman’s role in the FIFA scandal, namely the arrest and indictment of Cayman’s former football leader Jeffrey Webb and the growing list of other local entities and individuals who have found themselves ensnared by association in the worldwide probe of U.S. allegations. … 

Tellingly, on Monday night, lawmakers on the Finance Committee voted, with no debate, to continue the provision of public funding to CIFA to the tune of $127,775 for the coming year. 

We are not saying that legislators should have revoked or even reduced funding for CIFA’s local programs. However, when they were presented with a germane opportunity to speak on the topic of international allegations of actual corruption involving Cayman and FIFA, the premier and his Progressives government gave the parliamentary equivalent of “no comment.” 

“CIMA chief Scotland must recuse herself from FIFA matters,” June 4 

Cindy Scotland, the managing director of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, must recuse herself from all matters that come before our country’s financial regulator involving the unfolding FIFA scandal. … 

That CIMA Managing Director Scotland is married to Mark Scotland, a former government sports minister who in 2014 began working for Mr. Webb as youth development director for the Cayman Islands Football Association. 

That Mr. Scotland was, in fact, in Zurich with Mr. Webb. … 

The conflict of interest is clear: As long as Mrs. Scotland does not formally step aside, her agency CIMA cannot be expected to investigate “dispassionately” allegations and issues that are entangled with the organization her husband Mr. Scotland works for, or his direct business associates. … 

The recusal of Mrs. Scotland from FIFA matters isn’t even a close call. She should have made that decision herself, as soon as she heard of the U.S. indictments and arrests in Switzerland. 

“On corruption: The duties of the governor,” Nov. 23 

Cayman has a reputation for being a hotbed of corruption, but it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s a view we share with Police Commissioner Baines. 

A modest first step toward that goal would be to appoint people to fill the four vacancies on the five-member Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commission, which since F
ebruary has been a “committee of one,” namely, Police Commissioner Baines. … 

Don’t mistake us. We aren’t laying the blame for the Anti-Corruption Commission’s shortcomings at the feet of our premier, or any of our elected officials. Rather, we direct our attention toward the individual charged by the Cayman Islands Constitution with the maintenance of “good governance” in our islands: Governor Helen Kilpatrick. … 

In other words, when it comes to the vacancies on the Anti-Corruption Commission, and when it comes to battling corruption in Cayman generally, the buck stops on the governor’s desk. 

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