Webb parties amid FIFA fallout

Jeffrey Webb and his wife, Kendra, at her 40th birthday party.

His best friend and someone he once described as “his brother” was sent to jail for seven years Friday.

The regional FIFA offices he led in Cayman were closed down permanently last week.

The local football organization he ran for 24 years is now under a criminal investigation.

But Jeffrey Webb, according to pictures widely circulated on social media Sunday and Monday, spent last weekend partying.

Webb, 51, of Cayman, is residing in suburban Atlanta, awaiting sentencing on June 3 in connection with his guilty plea to racketeering, money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy in the United States.

Webb is charged, along with dozens of other current and former FIFA officials, in a scheme that American prosecutors say earned more than US$200 million in bribes over two decades.

The bribes were paid by sports marketing companies, prosecutors said, in exchange for FIFA officials’ agreement to award lucrative marketing contracts for football tournaments to those companies.

Webb at a party at his home in Loganville, Georgia.
Webb at a party at his home in Loganville, Georgia.

This weekend, social media photographs appeared that depicted Webb’s wife – Kendra Gamble-Webb – and her husband hosting “Kendra’s 40th Harlem Renaissance Birthday Party.”

The photos, which appear to have been taken inside Webb’s Loganville, Georgia home, where he is currently under 24/7 monitoring while awaiting sentencing, depict Webb in a white tuxedo, standing at a blackjack table and with his arm around Mrs. Gamble-Webb, holding a microphone. A big food spread also appears in one of the photos, with napkins depicting the two teams in Sunday’s Super Bowl game.

“Still living the good life this weekend!” said one of several commenters who sent the photos to the Cayman Compass via email.

The home in Loganville, according to statements and testimony in Canover Watson’s recently ended criminal trial, was purchased with ill-gotten funds from the Cayman Islands public hospital patient swipe-card contract, known as the CarePay contract. Prosecutors alleged that Webb secured two amounts – a US$240,000 loan and a US$250,000 payment from a locally registered company – to help settle the mortgage on the 10,000-square-foot, six-bedroom, eight-bathroom property in Loganville.

The US$250,000 payment initially came from the Cayman Islands Football Association, routed through a local company known as Black Holdings, prosecutors said. The US$240,000 loan, from Fidelity Bank, was to a Cayman-registered company owned by Jack Warner, Webb and Costas Takkas, all of whom were indicted in the FIFA corruption scandal.

The Fidelity loan was paid back with money Webb received from the CarePay contract, as part of what prosecutors allege was an illicit scheme run by Webb and Watson to skim profits from the public hospital system. The funds from CIFA landed in Webb’s CarePay bank account and were transferred to a bank in Georgia, prosecutors said.

Watson was convicted Thursday on five of six criminal counts in connection with the CarePay fraud scheme. Webb, who is also charged in the case, was unable to attend the Cayman trial due to his sentencing in the U.S. criminal case involving FIFA corruption.

CIFA probe

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is also investigating additional bribes Webb is alleged to have received through FIFA’s Centre of Excellence football field project in Prospect, Grand Cayman. These bribes are referred to generally in the FIFA indictment issued against Webb.

The Compass reported Monday that US$1.2 million in “loans” to the Cayman Islands Football Association in late 2013 – ostensibly related to the Centre of Excellence project – were described as “graft” in a U.S. federal court lawsuit filed in December.

The December 2015 lawsuit alleges that the money represented bribe payments given indirectly by two companies – Cartan Tours and Forward Sports – to former CIFA President Webb. The suit alleges Cartan paid the bribe money in exchange for a lucrative business arrangement with CONCACAF, world football’s regional governing body for the Caribbean, North and Central America.

Cartan, a suburban travel accommodation company, never provided any “material services” to CIFA, the lawsuit states. Cartan, in its response to a 2015 audit, said its US$600,000 portion of the money was a “gift” to CIFA to help it pay for the Prospect football complex.

Cayman Islands Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden said Tuesday that it was his understanding “this matter of the US$1.2 million is with the Anti-Corruption Unit.”

“These were the irregularities that were spotted by the auditors, and went a long way towards them being unable to sign off [CIFA’s financial statements] for 2014,” Mr. Bodden said. “There appears to be a lot of things wrong with CIFA, CONCACAF and FIFA dealings themselves and also with private enterprise. It gives me a very uneasy feeling as minister.

“The eyes of the world are upon us and Cayman must clean up its act in regards to football administration.”

Compass journalist James Whittaker contributed to this story.