Blake ‘heartbroken’ by latest CIFA claims

Cayman football boss Bruce Blake says he is “sad and heartbroken” by allegations that money intended for the national football Centre of Excellence may have been used to help pay for former Cayman Islands Football Association president Jeffrey Webb’s Georgia mansion.

Blake, the acting president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, stated he was not previously aware of the allegations and was angry that money meant for local football may have been diverted for other purposes.

He said he would be working with world football governing body FIFA to determine the credibility of the claims, which emerged during the ongoing criminal trial of the association’s former treasurer Canover Watson.

Mr. Blake said he met with the executive committee of the football association on Wednesday to discuss the evidence given by Watson.

“I have the treasurer reviewing all of our bank statements to see if there was a $250,000 payment from CIFA to Black Holdings,” he said.

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Watson testified on Monday, during his trial in connection with the Health Services Authority CarePay swipe-card contract, that US$250,000 had been paid by a company called Black Holdings Ltd. into the Fidelity Bank account opened to receive funds from the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority in April 2011.

The money, according to Watson’s evidence, was first transferred by the Cayman Islands Football Association to Black Holdings Ltd., which had a contract to work on the Centre of Excellence in Prospect.

It was later wired from that company to the Fidelity bank account and appeared to have been used toward a payment on Mr. Webb’s home, Watson said in Grand Court.

He said he believed Black Holdings Ltd. was controlled by a man named Peter Campbell.
Peter Campbell is a vice president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, a role he has held since 2009.

According to FIFA records for its GOAL project grants, Black Holdings Ltd. and Roy Campbell & Sons Construction Ltd., were allocated just over US$1.2 million from that source during the first three phases of the national center construction project, between 2003 and 2009.

Mr. Blake has been on the executive committee of CIFA since 2001, first as general secretary, and from October 2012, as first vice president, a role that currently carries the added responsibility of acting president. He says he took a leave of absence from the general secretary’s role between July 2008 and April 2010 while he was working with Maples and Calder in London.

He said Thursday that he had no personal knowledge of the payment from CIFA to Black Holdings Ltd, which Watson testified about, and had asked for a review of CIFA’s bank accounts.

He said CIFA has already announced it would be convening a separate Independent Review Committee to review spending on the Centre of Excellence, including from the FIFA GOAL Project, and would press ahead with that as a matter of urgency.

He added that CIFA’s other main source of funding was from FIFA’s Financial Assistance Program. He said this account was audited separately and submitted to FIFA for approval.

“A full review of the previous audits will have to be undertaken. I will be seeking FIFA’s assistance in this regards,” he added.

“If it is determined that funds that were scheduled for the FIFA Financial Assistance Program were in fact diverted, CIFA will take all legal measures to have the funds returned.”
The revelations from the trial this week have prompted new calls for Mr. Blake and Mr. Campbell to step down from their roles with the association.

Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden, said, “It is these constant allegations and other disclosures from the case and otherwise that cement my view that a thorough investigation over CIFA’s dealings for the past 15 years, at least, should occur, and anyone from that administration should step aside and let new blood in to proceed for the betterment of the sport, without dark clouds above them.”

Renard Moxam, who challenged unsuccessfully for the CIFA leadership last year, said it was past time for long-term members of the executive committee to step down.

“If it wasn’t clear already, it should now be obvious that everyone who has been on the Executive Committee while this was taking place needs to step down.

“If Bruce did not know what was going on, that isn’t any better. He had an important role on the committee and it was his responsibility to know what was going on and to ask questions about how the money was being spent.”

Mr. Blake said he had done nothing wrong and had no plans to step down. He said he had asked for the necessary investigations to take place. He said he had been on a leave of absence from CIFA between 2008 and 2010 when a lot of the work on the Centre of Excellence took place.

He said the president’s role, vacated by Jeffrey Webb, would be up for election this year and anyone who wanted to lead the football association could seek election through the proper channels.

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  1. Considering how much money has been poured into the Centre for Excellence since Jeff Webb unveiled the plan in 2007 and how little has actually been achieved I just cannot understand why nobody raised any questions about it a long while ago. I think the existing CIFA leadership are simply (although I am not implying they were in any way involved) too close to the problem to oversee this investigation and, as the Minister says, need to step back from it. The bottom line is that, even if they had nothing to do with what went on, it happened on their watch so their oversight will always be seen to be compromised.