KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING from Budapest
– Astonishing evidence of the tangled financial state of CONCACAF under the Jack Warner/Chuck Blazer regime prompted fury among Congress delegates meeting here ahead of FIFA Congress.
Financial and legal audits undertaken over the past five months have revealed that the Central and North American confederation is in serious trouble with the United States tax authorities and does not own what it thought was its own Centre of Excellence.
A string of delegates demanded a commission of inquiry, the wholesale resignation of the management board, and the pursuit of Blazer – a CONCACAF delegate on the FIFA executive committee – though the world federation’s Ethics Committee.
These were, however, the same federations’ delegates who have been in charge of football in the Caribbean, Central and North America during the two decades in which they accepted Trinidadian Warner as their president and American Blazer as general secretary.
Warner quit all football last year rather than face a FIFA Ethics Commission inquiry relating to bribery allegations surrounding the FIFA presidential election. Blazer, who did not attend the Congress, resigned as general secretary in December.
Legal counsel John Collins reported that CONCACAF had been misrepresenting its tax status to the US Internal Revenue Service between 2007 and 2011. The liabilities could add up to well over $2m before penalties.
Most incredible statement was the discovery that the $22.5m Centre of Excellence in Trinidad is not owned by CONCACAF, as all its members had thought, but by two companies owned by former president Warner.
Collins warned Congress that attempts to reclaim the property or its value might be compromised by other legal actions outstanding against the Centre of Excellence.
Cuba federation president Luis Hernandez told new-elected CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb: “You are sitting on a timebomb. In all our countries corruption and shady use of resources has a clear name: robbery and theft. and we have not taken complete action without the courts and ethics committees. There are robbers with guns and there are robbers with white collars – and I don’t want us to be represented by a thief with a white collar in FIFA.”
This was a reference to Blazer who, though he quit as CONCACAF general secretary last December, remains a confederation delegate on the all-powerful FIFA executive committee.
Webb described his reaction to the revelations as one of “shock, dismay, upset, mad – because this should not happen in this day and age and we must decide that it does not happen again.”
He agreed that one cost-saving measure which would come under immediate scrutiny was ending the $1m-a-year rental of the offices in Trump Tower in New York’s Fifth Avenue.
Webb promised to call an Extraordinary Congress later this year when full financial reports and assessments of liabilities would be available.
The CONCACAF Congress almost did not take place. Lisle Austin, briefly acting president of CONCACAF after Warner’s departure, had started legal action against the association in its Bahamian legal domicile. This had been rebutted by an appeal court only on Monday.
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