EDITORIAL – FIFA scandal fallout: not just ‘not over,’ but barely begun

FIFA-Congress-Jeff-Webb-Cayman-Islands.jpgCanover Watson is in Northward Prison. Jeffrey Webb is under house arrest in Georgia. Our government has stripped public funding away from the Cayman Islands Football Association. Cayman’s CONCACAF offices have been shut down.

And yet the local fallout from the global FIFA scandal has barely begun. The courtroom inquiries into world football leaders haven’t even started. Cayman will play a starring role in this unfortunate drama, and government (and others) would be well advised to develop a well-thought-out media and communications strategy. “Winging it” will not do.

On Monday, we wrote that Watson’s guilty verdict shouldn’t – and won’t – signal the end of investigations into the corrupt CarePay deal, which is inextricably entangled in the ongoing FIFA and CIFA scandals.

Remember that Watson had roles in CIFA, the Caribbean Football Union and FIFA; Webb (his alleged co-conspirator in the CarePay trial) was the head of CIFA and CONCACAF and a key figure in FIFA; and Mark Scotland (who was Cayman’s minister of sports, as well as health) began working for Webb as youth development director for CIFA in 2014, after leaving elected office.

Recall also that Cayman was more than well-represented at the now-infamous FIFA meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, in May 2015, when Webb and six other FIFA officials were arrested by Swiss police on allegations of corruption, money laundering and racketeering, some of which involved Cayman’s financial sector. The Cayman delegation included, among others, Mr. Scotland, former tourism minister Cline Glidden, and CIFA President Bruce Blake.

(It is important to point out that other than Watson and Webb, none of the individuals named above has been accused of any wrongdoing or been found guilty of any offense, civil or criminal. Their rights and reputations must be both recognized and preserved.)

CarePay, of course, is just one thread in the tangled tapestry of Cayman’s connections to the FIFA scandal, which is primarily a global story with activity unfolding in many jurisdictions, spearheaded by investigators from the U.S. Department of Justice. Judging from the inquiries we continue to receive from foreign journalists, international interest in Cayman’s part of FIFA remains extremely high.

A current snapshot of this evolving story:

  • Watson is in prison, serving a seven-year sentence after a Caymanian jury found him guilty of five criminal charges of fraud, breach of trust and conflict of interest in relation to CarePay
  • Webb remains under house arrest in his Georgia home (just down the street from a house owned by Watson) since pleading guilty to numerous FIFA-related charges in U.S. court. (Read today’s Compass story about Webb’s partying over the weekend in celebration of his wife’s 40th birthday)
  • Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden is standing by the government’s decision to keep public funds away from CIFA until the group’s current leadership steps down
  • In the U.S., a civil lawsuit has been filed by CONCACAF, alleging that CIFA was used as a vehicle for a US$1.2 million “graft” involving Webb
  • Downtown, Webb’s CONCACAF offices have been shut down, and football executives have given way to furniture movers.

The FIFA storm (Category 5 on the scandal scale) continues to grow in intensity, and Cayman, unfortunately, remains uncomfortably close to the eye.