CONCACAF accuses former leaders of fraud

Former Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) president Jack Warner and ex-general secretary Chuck Blazer were on Friday slammed for allegedly enriching themselves at the expense of the organisation as the regional body’s Integrity Committee detailed the findings of an investigation into the conduct of its former leaders.

The Integrity Committee, which was established last year at the request of various members of the Confederation and the CONCACAF Executive Committee, shared the results of its investigation into the activities of the Confederation’s previous leadership at CONCACAF’s Ordinary Congress in Panama City. “I have recounted a sad and sorry tale in the life of CONCACAF, a tale of abuse of position and power, by persons who assisted in bringing the organisation to profitability but who enriched themselves at the expense of their very own organisations,” said Integrity Committee chairman David Simmons, according to Reuters.

The key findings of the report detailed that Warner committed fraud against CONCACAF and FIFA in connection with the ownership and development of the Confederation’s US$25.9 million Centre of Excellence (COE). The Committee found that Warner secured funds from CONCACAF and FIFA by claiming the COE was owned by CONCACAF when he knew that the property was in fact owned by his own companies. He is also said to have induced FIFA to transfer funds that were intended for development of the COE to himself personally. Warner is also alleged to have obtained through fraud and then misappropriated $462,200 provided to CONCACAF by Football Federation Australia (FFA) in 2010. The funds were designed to support an upgrade of the Marvin Lee Stadium at the COE and FFA representatives were led to believe that the COE was owned by CONCACAF. The FFA funding was part of its international development investments around its ultimately ill-fated bid for the 2018 World Cup. Meanwhile, the reported detailed that Blazer misappropriated at least $15 million in “compensation payments” from CONCACAF during the time he served as general secretary. The report states Blazer concealed his unauthorised compensation payments from the Executive Committee through “incomplete disclosures” in CONCACAF’s budgets and financial statements and by falsely representing that the financial statements were independently audited, when Blazer knew that in fact they were not. Blazer is also alleged to misappropriated CONCACAF assets to finance his personal lifestyle, including investments in properties in New York, Miami and the Bahamas. The report stated Blazer “enriched himself for many years at CONCACAF’s expense”. Finally, Blazer was described by Simmons as “entirely negligent” for failing to file income tax returns for CONCACAF in the United States which led to the body losing its tax-exempt status as a non-profit organisation. The report details misuse of funding from the late 1990s.

CONCACAF has been on a reform drive since the appointment of new president Jeffrey Webb. Stating he was “shocked and dismayed” by the scale of the “fraud” Webb said it was crucial to remember where this funding was originally designed to benefit. “We come from a region where many of our territories are considered to be ‘third world’ and resources for us in this region, in the Caribbean in particular, are so important for our development,” he said. “I see players on a daily basis, kids who can’t afford shoes, who can’t afford even the basic necessities to play football. We just came from Haiti where football provides an opportunity for those kids. It affected me greatly to know that we have wasted so much.” Detailing CONCACAF’s future plans, Webb added: “It is making sure that not only CONCACAF but any federation doesn’t have to go through what we have gone through. We will learn from this.” Warner and Blazer could now face further action after FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said the report would be sent to his body’s investigatory chamber. The prime minister’s office of Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday announced Warner’s resignation as national security minister. Both men have continued to strenuously deny allegations of wrongdoing. Warner said in a statement: “I left CONCACAF and turned my back on football two years ago. Since then I have had no interest in any football related matter.CONCACAF’s report today is of no concern to me and as far as I am aware it is baseless and malicious.” In other news from the Congress, two of CONCACAF’s positions on FIFA’s Executive Committee have been decided. Webb secured the vice-president position for the Caribbean zone unopposed, while the election for the member of the North American zone saw Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, elected ahead of his Mexican counterpart Justino Compeán