Football executive Bruce Blake has vowed to “vigorously defend” himself against corruption allegations after being charged with multiple offences late last week.
Blake, who is still officially a vice president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, and Canover Watson, the former treasurer of the association, were charged with a string of offences including money laundering and false accounting, in connection with an ongoing probe.
The announcement Thursday evening came more than two years after the pair were first arrested. The Anti Corruption Commission described the investigation as “complex and protracted”.
In a statement through his lawyer Steve McField, Blake maintained his innocence and vowed to contest the allegations in court.
He was charged with one count of ‘secret commissions’ contrary to the Anti-Corruption Law 2008; two counts of acquiring or retention of criminal property (money laundering) contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Law 2008; and two counts of false accounting, contrary to the Penal Code.
Watson has been charged with two counts of secret commissions, three counts of money laundering and two counts of false accounting.
Both have been bailed to appear to appear in Summary Court on 20 Aug.
Watson and Blake were initially arrested in 2017 in relation to a probe involving US$1.2 million in funds that were “loaned” to the Cayman Islands Football Association in 2013.
News of the charges broke as Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, and Victor Montagliani, president of CONCACAF, arrived on island to offer support to the new CIFA administration, led by Alfredo Whittaker.
Whittaker, who was elected as CIFA president in 2017, and has spoken about moving on from the financial scandals of the past with a new administration, said he was happy for the investigation to run its course.
Speaking at a press conference, Friday, he said, “The situation that happened yesterday is nothing new. I really don’t have much comment to it. The authorities are doing their job. CIFA remains fully supportive of the authorities on the job. Whatever has to be done, let the authorities deal with it.”
Asked why Blake was still VP of the association, he said that was not his call.
“I did not bring Mr. Blake back to the executive committee. Mr. Blake presented his case to the appeals committee. The appeals committee decided to rule in his favour. As per our constitution he was reinstated to our executive committee.”
Though he retains the role, Blake is suspended from all CIFA activities pending the outcome of the court case. In the statement through his lawyer, Blake denied any wrongdoing.
“From the time of his arrest, Mr. Blake denied and continues to strongly deny these allegations against him. Therefore, Mr. Blake’s legal team will vigorously defend Mr. Blake’s innocence in regards to these charged allegations,” the statement indicated.
“We take this opportunity to restate that these charges brought against Mr. Blake are not yet proven. Our constitution Order 2009 clearly states that Mr. Blake, having been charged with criminal offences, is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty according to Law. Mr. Blake looks forward to vigorously defending his innocence in the court through the process of a fair trial.”