Commentary

How Concacaf president spun own Webb of deceit

If one has just a little skepticism about the effect of the proposed FIFA reforms and election of a new president at FIFA's Extraordinary Congress in Zurich, it's because we've seen what happened at the Concacaf level.

Following the demise of the Jack Warner regime Cayman Islands native Jeffrey Webb was installed as president.

“The credibility of Concacaf is back,” boasted FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

How the Cayman Islands and transparency go together remains a mystery, but Webb worked hard at projecting that myth of reform within Concacaf.

"Solid oversight is necessary to ensure that Concacaf is able to focus its resources and energy on developing the game of football in our region and supporting our great teams," Webb said in a statement in December 2012.

Instead of dismantling the thieving of the Warner era, Webb doubled down. In May 2015 he was one of seven FIFA officials arrested on corruption charges in Zurich.  Mark “the Genius” Cole, Webb's barber back in the Cayman Islands, could not believe it.

“I am shocked,” he told the Miami Herald. “This man is not a corrupter. He is of good character; always joking and smiling.”

In December 2015, Webb pleaded guilty to racketeering, wire-fraud and money-laundering charges and agreed to forfeit more than $6.7 million as part of his plea deal. But that is only a part of it.

Bloomberg reported this week that Webb paid himself a $2 million annual salary as Concacaf president and had access to a private jet.   One trip from Jamaica to Mexico was for $96,000 and one bill for a trip to a strip club was for more than $25,000.

How did Webb get away with it all? Concacaf general secretary Enrique Sanz -- the organization's CEO -- and Webb approved each other's expense reports.

In perhaps the most sensational revelations, Bloomberg reported that Webb was fearful someone was on to him and he hired investigators to sweep his Georgia mansion and Miami offices for listening devices and he had them snoop on U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati.

Webb indeed had something to be fearful of. Federal authorities had flipped Jose Hawilla, Sanz's former boss at Traffic and the kingpin of soccer corruption across the Americas for more than two decades, and Sanz -- an unindicted co-conspirator who suffers from leukemia and has never been charged -- is believed to have also talked with authorities.

It still begs the question, how could it all have gone unnoticed? Back in 2012, Webb had formed a new Concacaf finance committee that he said "forms a crucial backbone in our system of checks and balances and will ensure that the organization and its individuals are operating in a financially sound environment ..."

Checks and balances?

Of the nine members of the original finance committee, Costa Rican Eduardo Li was arrested along with Webb in Zurich in May 2015, Guatemalan Rafael Salguero was indicted in December 2015, and Canover Watson, who also hails from the Cayman Islands, was recently sentenced to seven years in jail on five counts of corruption-related charges related to his work for the Cayman Islands health services authority. (Webb has not been charged in the Watson case but the Caymans judge believed Webb was guilty and had been the “senior partner controlling the bank accounts” in the corrupt agreement.)

Webb named Jamaican Horace Burrell as chairman of the finance committee. Burrell, who just so happened to be a business partner with Webb in Burrell's Captain's Bakery, has not been arrested in the Federal corruption scandals but he goes back years in the shady world of FIFA politics.

Burrell's involvement in Warner's 2011 cash handouts ($40,000 for each CFU member) that resulted in the demise of the Warner empire earned him a six-month ban from soccer, three months suspended, but he is now back in everyone's good graces as a vice president on the Concacaf executive committee.

One of the great stories of FIFA election lore involves Blatter's first race for FIFA president and Burrell's girlfriend. When Blatter was elected FIFA president in 1998, Haiti Football Association president Jean-Marie Kyss had been detained in Haiti, Warner got Burrell's girlfriend, Vincy Jalal, to shout “oui” during the roll-call of delegates and cast Haiti's vote for Blatter, who narrowly edged Swede Lennart Johansson.

For all the fear of voting intimidation and ballot-selfies in connection with Friday's election, at least nothing like what was pulled off in Paris in 1998 would be possible now.

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