Former Cayman Islands national football team captain Lee Ramoon was elected Saturday to serve as president of the Cayman Islands Football Association.
Ramoon, often touted as one of Cayman’s most successful footballers, inherits a cash-strapped organization which has lost a large chunk of its funding since the May 27, 2015 arrest of former president Jeffrey Webb on U.S. racketeering charges connected with the FIFA bribery scandal.
Mr. Ramoon beat out lone challenger Alfredo Whittaker for the president’s post in the Saturday internal election of the CIFA membership.
Several months after Webb’s arrest, the Cayman Islands government pulled its annual financial support for the organization amid a row over its internal elections, held in August 2015.
Mr. Ramoon has pledged to try and repair the association’s relationship with the Cayman Islands government, and has some experience as a financial overseer – given his position in the government’s Treasury Department and its Central Tenders Committee.
The former football star has also served as a coach and has promised to “go back to the grassroots” in developing youth football programs and college scholarships for players.
Mr. Ramoon is remembered for scoring the winning goal for the Cayman Islands national team in a famous 3-2 victory over Jamaica on March 6, 1994 at Ed Bush Sports Field in West Bay. He played in more than 200 matches for the national side, both officially and unofficially, during his career.
He officially replaces CIFA vice president Bruce Blake, who ran the football association as acting president following Webb’s guilty plea to racketeering, money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges in November 2015. Webb was fired from CIFA after his guilty plea was announced in early December 2015.
Mr. Blake will stay on in the first vice president’s post at CIFA.
Questionable transactions arisen
A number of questionable financial transactions involving the local football association, Webb and some of his associates have arisen since the FIFA arrests occurred last spring.
Among those, prosecutors in the criminal trial of Canover Watson – a close Webb associate – said last year that US$250,000 from the Cayman Islands Football Association found its way into a Fidelity Bank account initially set up to take in payments from the territory’s public healthcare system for the CarePay patient swipe-card contract.
Some of that money from the football association and other cash due from the CarePay contract payments was used by Webb to put a US$300,000 down payment on an Atlanta, Georgia area home in 2011, the Crown alleged during Watson’s trial. Webb was the president of the football association at the time the transactions occurred. Watson was its treasurer.
In addition, some US$1.2 million in what were initially called loans granted to the Cayman Islands Football Association in 2013 were described as “graft” in a lawsuit filed in U.S. federal court by CONCACAF.
The December 2015 lawsuit alleges that the money represented bribe payments given indirectly by two companies – Cartan Tours and Forward Sports – to 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.
The suit and all of its claims against the two companies were dropped when Cartan ended its contract with CONCACAF earlier this year.
Webb faces sentencing on June 3 – Friday – in connection with his November 2015 guilty plea to the U.S. racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud charges related to the FIFA case. Watson was sentenced to seven years imprisonment after he was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the government in the CarePay case. Webb still faces charges in the CarePay matter.