FIFA Investigates Caribbean Football Officials

FIFA has opened an investigation into the meeting of Caribbean football officials that resulted in former presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam being banned for life. Bin Hammam was accused of attempting to buy votes ahead of last month’s FIFA presidential election. The Qatari national withdrew from the election on May 29, 2011, leaving Sepp Blatter to be re-elected unopposed. FIFA ethics committee deputy chairman Petrus Damaseb said that the former head of the Asian Football Confederation is now unable to be involved “in any kind of football-related activity at national and international level for life.”

Soccer’s governing body told Reuters that all Caribbean Football Union (CFU) member associations had been given 48 hours to “provide and report all relevant information in their possession” about the meeting in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, on May 10 to 11 where Bin Hammam was alleged to have offered cash for votes. FIFA stressed that “Any person who has relevant information but does not come forward during this 48 hour period will be subject to the full range of sanctions.”

Caribbean Football Union (CFU) officials Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester were given one-year bans for their role in the meeting while former CONCACAF president Jack Warner, also placed under investigation, resigned last month and, as a result,  will not have to face the ethics committee.

Bin Hammam, the former head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FIFA executive committee member, was found guilty of breaking seven articles of FIFA’s ethics code, including bribery, after some federations, including Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Suriname, said they were offered money at the meeting.

A preliminary report by the ethics committee in June said: “The comprehensive, convincing and overwhelming evidence permits to conclude prima facie that the accused (Warner) has initiated and arranged a special meeting of the CFU member associations for Mr Bin Hammam. [. . .] Furthermore on the occasion of this meeting it seems that Mr Bin Hammam offered, at least indirectly and under the pledge of secrecy, to each of the member associations an envelope containing $40,000.”

The CFU is a sub-division of CONCACAF, the North, Central America and Caribbean Confederation, and has 30 affiliates, five of which are not FIFA members.

The decision makes Bin Hammam the most senior figure to be banned by FIFA in its 107-year history. Bin Hammam said that he would most probably not receive a fair trial at the hearing, saying that “It seems likely that FIFA has already made its decision weeks ago, so none of us should be completely surprised if a guilty verdict is returned.” He also stated that, in this case, he will appeal, describing the case against him as bogus and founded on lies told by a senior FIFA official.

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