PANAMA CITY: FIFA’s claim to credibility as world football’s governing authority was thrown under further sceptical focus by a searing report into the way its subsidiary confederation in central and North America was managed writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
CONCACAF national federation had been promised, a year ago, a forensic examination of the management by former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner and outgoing FIFA executive member Chuck Blazer.
Trinidadian Warner was president for nearly 20 years of both CONCACAF and the Caribbean Football Union; for all that time New Yorker Blazer was the general secretary of CONCACAF. Warner ran his football, business and political activities out of Port of Spain while Blazer was headquartered in Trump Tower on New York’s Fifth Avenue.
Jeff Webb followed his ascent to the CONCACAF presidency last May by commissioning David Simmons, the body’s integrity judge and a former chief justice of Barbados and, to examine the accounts. His report accused Warner and Blazer as having been “fraudulent in their management” of the confederation’s affairs.
Both men have always denied any wrongdoing.
Simmons not only examined the books and accounts and other documents but undertook interviews with 38 associates.
Havelange centre puzzle
He told CONCACAF’s annual congress: “I have recounted a sad and sorry tale in the life of CONCACAF, a tale of abuse of position and power, by persons who assisted in bringing the organisation to profitability but who enriched themselves at the expense of their very own organisations.”
Simmons reported that, to the best of his knowledge, Warner had never divulged the fact that a $25.9m Centre of Excellence had been built on land owned by his companies. CONCACAF members had thought the Centre was owned by the authority. In fact it was not even though it had been built largely with monies from CONCACAF and from FIFA.
“Warner represented to FIFA that funds would be used to support development,” said Simmons, “but never told FIFA that the Centre would be situated on land owned by his companies. There is no evidence that Warner or anyone else ever disclosed to the CONCACAF executive committee or congress that lands on which the Centre was built was owned by his companies.”
Simmons said that Blazer, 67, who quit CONCACAF last December and must thus relinquish his FIFA position at congress next month, received more than $20m in compensation from CONCACAF, including $17m in commission which were paid, mostly, via an offshore marketing company.
He added that Blazer worked without a contract from July 18, 1998 and his compensation was discussed only three times in CONCACAF forums during 21 years.
The report also found “no business reason” for the renting of apartments used by Blazer in Manhattan and said the American had also tried to buy property in the Bahamas, in 2007, for about $4 million using football funds.
Last year it emerged, for the first time, that CONCACAF had not file income tax returns to the United States authoritues. Blazer’s failure to do so was described by Simmons as “entirely negligent” because this had put at risk the confederation’s tax-exempt status as a non-profit organisation.
Concluding his report, Simmons said the auditors used by CONCACAF during the Warner era, Trinidad-based Kenny Rampersad and Company, were not independent and cited documented proof that Warner and Blazer were clients of the firm.
The relationship between Warner and Rampersad has been called into question over the past week by investigative journalists and newspapers in Trinidad itself where Warner has resisted all calls to step down as Minister of National Security.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter – whose world authority allowed Warner an unquestioning free hand to act as he thought fit in the region – was present at CONCACAF Congress to hear Simmons’s report.
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