. . . but BFA keeping eye on widening probe

The Barbados Football Association (BFA) is in a “wait and see” mode, says president Randy Harris.

This after revelations by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that its investigations into financial infelicities in soccer’s governing body, FIFA, has moved into a new phase that will likely lead to criminal charges being brought against more football officials.

Harris told Barbados TODAY this afternoon he had been hearing “certain rumours” about the ongoing investigation but he did not elaborate. However, he stated that he did not believe his BFA administration had to be concerned about the continuing probe.

Randy Harris is not worried as US authorities look to make more arrests.
Randy Harris is not worried as US authorities look to make more arrests.

“I don’t think we are in anyway involved in anything,” Harris said.

The CONCACAF region, of which the BFA is a member, has been brought into focus by the high profile arrests and indictments of its president Jeffrey Webb as well as former long-serving CONCACAF president and former FIFA vice-president Austin “Jack” Warner. Chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, Richard Weber, indicated that the authorities’ net was widening.

“It’s probably hard to say who is on the list for the next phase and the timing of that . . . I’m confident in saying that an active case is ongoing, and we anticipate additional arrests, indictments and/or pleas,” Weber said.

In 2011, FIFA’s ethics committee opened an investigation into 16 Caribbean soccer officials over allegations they took bribes from a former presidential candidate at a meeting in Trinidad & Tobago. Those officials allegedly each took US$40,000 in cash in exchange for their votes in the FIFA presidential election. The bribes were allegedly organized through Warner. Evidence of the alleged bribes came from former FIFA general secretary Chuck Blazer and Fred Lunn, a Bahamian official who took a photo of the cash he received before returning it.

Last year FIFA’s deputy secretary general Markus Kattner mandated accounting firm KPMG to conduct a forensic probe into the financial affairs of the BFA and how funds coming into the BFA were being used. In 2014, the two-year-old Harris administration made an official report about financial irregularities it allegedly inherited in 2012 from the Ronald Jones administration to the Fraud Department of the Royal Barbados Police Force. Jones has previously declined to comment on the FIFA scandal saying he has been out of football administration for the past four years.

A BFA official said then that despite annual cash inflows into the BFA that ran into millions, it had inherited an organization that was deeply indebted to a number of entities.

The probe into FIFA’s operations took a new twist over the weekend when it was alleged by US officials that South African football officials paid more than US$10 million in bribes to Warner for votes for the right to host the 2010 World Cup.

But today while South Africa’s football chief Danny Jordaan admitted paying the money, he denied that it was to buy votes to host the 2010 World Cup. He explained that South Africa’s organizing committee paid the money in 2008 to assist with football development in the CONCACAF region.

Blazer has already admitted taking a $750,000 cut of the $10 million ostensibly paid to CONCACAF for football development. He secretly pleaded guilty in 2013 to racketeering conspiracy, wire-fraud conspiracy, money-laundering conspiracy, income-tax evasion and failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, charges. He forfeited more than $1.9 million at the time of his plea. Confronted years ago by the IRS for failing to pay taxes, Blazer agreed to wear a hidden microphone in meetings with several FIFA officials.

Weber has revealed that investigators have traced financial records from 33 nations.

Today Warner called on FIFA president Sepp Blatter to resign, saying he had brought shame and disgrace to the organization.

Austin 'Jack' Warner and Sepp Blatter in happier times.
Austin ‘Jack’ Warner and Sepp Blatter in happier times.

“Why are there no investigations into Sepp Blatter? No other person has brought so much shame and disgrace on FIFA. Why are there no investigations in Asia, or in Europe?” Warner asked.

Source: (Reuters)

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