Bahamian ‘whistle-blower’ is applauded for exposing FIFA scandal

ALISON LOWE reports for the Tribune on the role of a Bahamian official in the FIFA bribery scandal.

A DECISION by a Bahamian soccer official to “whistle-blow” on alleged corruption is being credited in the international media as exposing a scandal that is now threatening to “tear apart” FIFA, the wealthy global body that governs the hugely-popular sport.

The Telegraph of London yesterday reported that a secret dossier on the corruption probe revealed that it was Anton Sealey, President of the Bahamas Football Association, who “led” a group of Caribbean football officials who exposed an alleged attempt by an aspiring President of the International Federation of Football Associations to bribe regional officials with $40,000 each to support his presidential bid.

Qatari President of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohamed Bin Hammam, along with FIFA Vice President, Trinidadian Jack Warner, and the long-standing current President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, were preparing to face a FIFA ethics committee hearing over the allegations. However, although investigations will go ahead against Hammam and Warner, all accusations have been dropped against Blatter.

Mr Sealey was not available for comment yesterday, according to his wife, as he remains in Zurich, Switzerland, where FIFA’s headquarters are located. The corruption claims highlighted by him and his fellow Caribbean Football Union officials are the latest in a series of claims of ethical misdemeanours by FIFA executives, among them suggestions that officials accepted bribes for votes on which countries should host future world cup tournaments.

According to the corruption probe dossier seen by the Telegraph, Mr Sealey and up to 25 Caribbean Football Union (CFU) officials were offered envelopes containing $40,000 in cash, split into four $10,000 “stacks” of $100 bills at a CFU meeting in Warner’s native Trinidad on May 10-11 in an alleged effort by Bin Hammam to persuade them to vote for him in this week’s FIFA presidential election.

They were allegedly told “not to tell anyone about the cash, not to discuss the cash with the others and not to show anyone the money.”

A corruption probe was initiated after at least four of the delegates apparently refused the cash and reported the incident to FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer, who engaged former US federal prosecutor John P Collins to conduct a full investigation.

The Telegraph reports that the whistle-blowers who went to Mr Blazer with the allegations were led by Mr Sealey. Mr Sealey’s claims are backed by statements from the Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands Football Associations, the dossier shows.

The current President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, was drawn into the ethics investigation after it was alleged by Mr Warner that he was aware of the payments to the CFU and had “raised no objections.”

Mr Warner and Bin Hammam have denied wrongdoing. Bin Hammam claimed the allegations are a conspiracy designed to derail his chance to be FIFA President in Wednesday’s presidential election. Last night international media reported that he has ended his bid for the presidency in the wake of the allegations. However, FIFA will open a “full blown” investigations into the accusations against Hammam and Warner.

Sepp Blatter, of Switzerland, FTFA’s current president, will not be investigated because he knew nothing of the payments. He will stand unopposed for re-election on Wednesday to continue in a job that he has held for 13 years.

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