Normally, an organization appointing an independent auditor is not a noteworthy event. It’s a rare day, that you’ll read about it in the newspaper – let alone on Page One.
But the Cayman Islands Football Association’s announcement last week that it has appointed Grant Thornton as its independent auditor following a FIFA-approved competitive process is headline news for two reasons:
First, it reminds us of what happened to make the Cayman Islands “Ground Zero” for the global football corruption scandal two years ago.
Second, because it reminds us of what hasn’t happened since local football chieftain Jeffrey Webb was arrested in Zurich, Switzerland, in May 2015.
Readers surely remember the allegations of widespread bribery, kickbacks and corruption in FIFA that rocked the sporting world in 2015, or that Cayman resident Jeffrey Webb and former resident Costas Takkas (who both pleaded “guilty” to charges in U.S. court) were key figures in the scandal.
Readers also should remember the alleged utilization of Cayman financial institutions in the FIFA scandal, and the predictably negative international press coverage of our country in the aftermath.
What might have slipped from readers’ minds, however, is that two years after the 47-count indictment was handed down in U.S. federal court – naming Webb, eight other high-ranking global football officials, five businessmen and two dozen unnamed “co-conspirators – there have been no arrests in Cayman in relation to the FIFA imbroglio. To the extent that there has even been a local investigation (unknown), there has been nothing to show for it, at least publicly.
How is that possible?
When Webb was lining his pockets with ill-gotten gains, he was the face of local football and a prominent figure in the community, leading CIFA for more than two decades and forging ties with local businesses and the Cayman government.
Yet local officials have never accused any of Webb’s numerous associates with wrongdoing, charged anyone with criminal offenses nor exonerated anyone of involvement. Instead of explanations or allegations … there has been silence.
About the only substantial response came from then-Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden, who cut government funding from CIFA until the group could prove it had cleaned up its act. (Minister Bodden’s decision was, and remains, correct.)
When Webb was in charge of regional football governing body CONCACAF, there was a lot of money and support for Cayman football; now that he’s gone, much of that has dissipated, though CIFA’s local leadership remains largely intact.
Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter (who eight years ago attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the still unfinished and unused multimillion-dollar CIFA Centre For Excellence) has written a book about the scandal. Passages in the book suggest he is laying the blame for FIFA corruption at the feet of his former protégé Webb and other regional leaders.
Webb has been banned from world football for life. As a convicted criminal in the U.S., he was struck from Cayman’s voters list this spring. His Georgia home and other properties are in danger of being seized.
Recently, Webb’s sentencing in U.S. court was again delayed, for the fifth time. If Webb is a canary that’s been singing all he knows about FIFA to U.S. law enforcement – his song must be longer than rock classics such as “American Pie,” “The End” and … dare we say it? … “Free Bird.”