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Cash probe details to be revealed at CONCACAF congress

By Simon Evans

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - A detailed account of serious financial mismanagement within CONCACAF, the governing body for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean will be presented to the sport's leaders on Friday.

CONCACAF's congress will hear a breakdown of the 'forensic audit' that was ordered by president Jeffrey Webb, who succeeded long-time leader Jack Warner after he quit following a cash for votes scandal in 2011.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter will attend Friday's congress along with secretary general Jerome Valcke and delegates from 40 member nations.

CONCACAF's executive committee met on Thursday for five hours with members declining to talk afterwards about the contents of the audit.

However five separate congress delegates who claimed knowledge of the report's contents but who declined to speak on the record, all indicated to Reuters there were serious cases of financial malpractice detailed.

"It's bad, it's very bad," said one delegate who confirmed the report contained further details on the disputed ownership of the $22.5 million Joao Havelange Center of Excellence in Trinidad.

At last year's congress in Budapest, held in conjunction with world governing body FIFA's, delegates were told that CONCACAF did not legally own the center, as all its members had thought, but that two companies owned by Warner had ownership.

Warner, a former FIFA vice-president and minister in the government of Trinidad and Tobago, stood down from all positions in the game thus avoiding a FIFA Ethics Commission inquiry relating to bribery allegations surrounding the FIFA presidential election.

Long term general secretary American Chuck Blazer, who turned against Warner and made public allegations of corruption against him and other Caribbean officials, also quit his position in December 2011 and is no longer employed by CONCACAF.

Since at least the summer of 2011, the FBI has been examining more than $500,000 in payments made by the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) over the past 20 years to an offshore company headed by Blazer during a time when Warner was also head of the CFU, a position he held from the early 1980s until 2011.

The precise reasons for many of those payments is unclear. In 2011, Blazer said the payments were meant to be repayments to him by Warner of "a significant amount of money" which Blazer said he loaned to Warner in 2004. Warner has told the media in Trinidad the payments were above board.

A law enforcement source told Reuters last month that Warner's son Daryan was a "cooperating witness" in the investigation.

The U.S.'s Internal Revenue Service has joined in the CONCACAF probe, which is looking into potential violations of U.S. tax and anti-fraud statutes, law enforcement sources told Reuters last month.

The allegations against Warner, who is Minister of National Security in Port of Spain, are creating political heat in Trinidad and Tobago.

The country's opposition leader Keith Rowley has filed a motion in the Parliament questioning the failure of prime minister Kamla Persad Bissessar to deal with the controversies.

"Those international stories on Mr. Warner are making us look like the most corrupted country on the face of the earth, are sullying our reputation and yet we have a prime minister who does nothing about Warner," Rowley, the leader of the People's National Movement told Reuters.

Local media investigations in Trinidad have also made allegations of internal financial wrongdoing by Warner while he was a 'special advisor' to the country's Football Association.

Warner has frequently denied any malpractice.

Friday's congress will also vote on a new member of FIFA's executive committee to replace Blazer with U.S. Soccer chief Sunil Gulati and Mexican Football Federation president Justino Compean competing for the spot.

Several delegates said the vote was likely to be extremely tight.

(Reporting By Simon Evans in Panama City and Linda Hutchinson-Jafar in Port of Spain; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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