Football association Vice President arrested

Local attorney and Cayman Islands Football Association Vice President Bruce Blake was arrested last week in connection with a corruption and money laundering probe.

Mr. Blake, 47, was one of two men arrested in an investigation by the Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commission. A 46-year-old man from Prospect was taken to the Fairbanks jail and questioned Friday.

The Cayman Compass contacted Mr. Blake, who was elected first vice president of the Cayman Islands Football Association last year, for comment regarding the Thursday arrest. He initially directed all questions to his attorney, Steve McField.

When contacted Friday afternoon, Mr. McField said he was representing Mr. Blake and that his client “was released from custody [Thursday night].”

A press statement was released Monday by Mr. McField on his client’s behalf.

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“Mr. Blake’s arrest was in connection with suspicion of allegations of secret commission and money laundering in relation to the signing of two loan agreements on behalf of CIFA with regards to two amounts of US$600,000 each received in the Butterfield Bank account of CIFA and then transferred to the CIFA loan account at Fidelity Bank,” the statement read. “Those two amounts were represented to Mr. Blake to be loans to CIFA to pay down on the CIFA loan at Fidelity Bank in order for Fidelity Bank to remove the charge on the CIFA Centre of Excellence in compliance with FIFA regulations.

“Mr. Blake has not at anytime engaged in arranging nor receiving any secret commission. Mr. Blake has not at anytime engaged in money laundering. Mr. Blake has not at anytime received or arrange[d] any corrupt payment for or to CIFA nor any other entity or person(s). Mr. Blake has not at anytime engaged in any secret payment(s) or improper business or unprofessional practices or advantages for himself or any other person(s) or entity.”

The statement indicated that Mr. Blake had previously filed a report with the Anti-Corruption Commission in relation to these matters.

“Mr. Blake is obviously shocked and dismayed by these suspicious allegations,” the statement read, adding that the attorney had already cooperated with U.S. authorities and FIFA in their ongoing investigations.

CIFA President Lee Ramoon did not return messages or calls seeking comment on Thursday or Friday.

The Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commission announced Thursday that a 47-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of “secret commissions” – an offense under the Anti-Corruption Law – and on suspicion of money laundering contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Law.

A 46-year-old man was arrested Friday on suspicion of the same offenses, according to the Anti-Corruption Commission. The commission did not identify either man. No charges were filed as of press time Monday.

The commission did not specify the nature of its investigation.

According to Section 21 of the Anti-Corruption Law, the offense of “secret commissions” includes an individual who gives or offers to give any advantage in return for a person doing another act in return.

The allegation is similar to a bribery offense, involving a person who has authority to make a decision dishonestly receiving a benefit from someone who profits from their decision.

CIFA investigation

The Compass has previously reported that nearly CI$1 million (nearly US$1.2 million) in loans to CIFA in 2013 by private companies that were re-categorized after the fact as “gifts” from sponsors, were under investigation by the anti-corruption unit.

A December 2015 lawsuit filed in a California court described the US$1.2 million in loans to CIFA as “graft,” alleging that two companies – Cartan Tours and Forward Sports – paid the money as bribes to former CIFA President Jeffrey Webb in order to win a lucrative business arrangement with CONCACAF, world football’s regional governing body for the Caribbean, North and Central America.

Webb was also president of CONCACAF at the time the loans issue arose. Mr. Blake served as his first vice president.

The December 2015 California court filing, which was settled before trial, alleged that it was shortly after an October 2013 CONCACAF summit meeting when Cartan made a “mysterious” US$600,000 loan to CIFA. According to the lawsuit, the US$600,000 was dispersed in an unsecured loan from a Panamanian bank account on Dec. 31, 2013. The loan agreement between CIFA and Cartan International Management Inc. was signed by Mr. Blake on behalf of CIFA, U.S. court records state.

Blake’s response

When the Cayman Compass published the story about the lawsuit, Mr. Blake provided a detailed response regarding how CIFA handled the US$1.2 million loans in 2013.

“I did sign the loan agreements as they were expressed to me to be loans to CIFA to assist with paying down on the CIFA loan with Fidelity Bank,” Mr. Blake said. “Prior to the loans being made, FIFA [world football’s governing association] had implemented a policy that any national association’s FIFA Goal Project could not have a charge placed on it. As the CIFA Centre of Excellence had a standing charge placed on it by Fidelity Bank in or around 2008, the charge had to be removed in order to satisfy the new FIFA requirement.

“The loans were made to CIFA to pay down the loan with Fidelity Bank; therefore, removing the charge and satisfying the FIFA requirement. The corporate benefits to CIFA were that a secured loan was replaced with unsecured loans and CIFA was now in compliance with the FIFA requirement. The loans went directly to pay down on the Fidelity Bank loan. I was not part of the negotiations with regards to the new loans; however, I did sign the loan agreements on behalf of CIFA.”

Forward Sports ‘loan’

Forward Sports, whose representatives also attended the CONCACAF summit in October 2013, was alleged in the California lawsuit to have extended its US$600,000 loan to CIFA on the same day as Cartan Tours. The same individual who signed the loan on behalf of Forward Sports had also signed on behalf of Cartan International, court papers allege.

The agreement, which was signed by Bruce Blake on behalf of CIFA and nominee company secretary Irina Abrego de Espinosa on behalf of Forward Sports International, included a seven-year repayment plan at an interest rate of 1 percent above U.S. prime, or 4.25 percent.

This loan was also re-designated by the Cayman Islands Football Association as a “gift” from Forward Sports. As a result, CIFA’s audit firm Rankin Berkower refused to sign off on the football association’s financial accounts and reported the case to police.

Pakistan-based Forward Sports is one of the largest manufacturers of footballs in the world and maker of the Brazuca, the football used in the 2014 World Cup Finals.

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