Barbadian officials offer reassurances, amid football's biggest money scandal
No need to worry.
The Barbados Football Association (BFA) is as clean as a whistle!
That assurance was given today by its president, Randy Harris, after seven top international football officials – including the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner – were indicted in what is unquestionably football’s biggest bribery scandal that has put a permanent blotch on the beautiful game and sent shockwaves across the international sporting fraternity.
The seven, including Warner who was arrested today and subsequently released on TT$2.5 million bail (BDS$788,914) pending the outcome of extradition proceedings, now face extradition to the United States to answer federal corruption charges.
A further seven people were also named in the indictment and face charges of wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering, following allegations that there has been widespread corruption throughout football’s governing body over the past 20 years, involving bids for World Cups, as well as marketing and broadcast deals.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter was not named in the investigation.
Calling today’s sudden developments “a very sad day in football”, Harris, speaking to Barbados TODAY from Zurich, Switzerland, where he is attending FIFA’s Annual General Meeting, said the arrests had left delegates “shell shocked”.
He was present when more than a dozen plain clothes Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at Zurich’s Baur au Lac hotel in the early hours of this morning.
“The Barbados Football Association is clean. None of us has been questioned about anything . . . in fact, I don’t think any national association was questioned,” Harris replied when asked if anyone from the BFA had been approached by investigators.
“The authorities knew who they were coming for and they came and executed their duties. They were targeting people at the higher level of FIFA,” he told Barbados TODAY, stressing that “they weren’t looking for the small people like us”.
Other officials named in the indictment include FIFA vice-president Eugenio Figueredo and Costa Rica federation president Eduardo Li.
Four men, including two of Warner’s sons, Daryan Warner and Daryll Warner, have already pleaded guilty in the US football corruption investigation, involving bribes totalling more than $100 million.
Harris said what was especially worrying was the potentially devastating impact the scandal could have on the images of CONCACAF and CONMEBOL.
He stated that while CONCACAF had survived an investigation into alleged fraud in 2011, he wasn’t sure how well the regional body would recover this time around.
“It is a sad day for football in the Caribbean. We came out of the investigation in 2011, where CONCACAF promoted itself as a clean organization with integrity.
“Mr Webb has also been a picture of honesty and integrity . . . and then for this to happen . . . it has us shell shocked,” Harris stated.
“Everyone here is in shock . . . this obviously puts the Caribbean and CONCACAF in a different light worldwide,” added the BFA official, who was accompanied by his general secretary Joyce Stewart and senior vice-president Captain Al Walcott to Switzerland.
When contacted by Barbados TODAY for comment, both Minister of Education Ronald Jones – himself a former BFA president – and Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley declined to comment on the issue.
Jones said he would not comment since he had been out of football for the past four years, while Lashley noted that investigations were still at a delicate stage.
However, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch did not mince her words on the day’s developments.
While strongly condemning the actions of those involved in the scandal, Lynch charged that they had used their positions of power for their own benefit.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States. It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.”
“And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable,” the US Attorney General added.
Despite the developments, which have sent FIFA into a state of crisis ahead of Friday’s presidential election, the world governing body has said that the vote, where incumbent Sepp Blatter is facing Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, will go ahead, as will the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar respectively.