Wade: Concacaf must continue to be vigilant
While Bermudian football appears in the ascendancy after an encouraging run in the Concacaf Gold Cup, the not so long ago corruption-riddled state of the region’s governing body was brought back to remembrance as a federal judge in New York City ordered Jack Warner, the former Concacaf president, to pay $79 million in restorative damages for his role in a corruption scandal that rocked the game.
Concacaf won the judgment by default after the Trinidadian stood in absentia and so did not contest a 2017 civil suit that alleged he embezzled millions of dollars during his time in administration with the governing body.
He was accused of receiving favours and kickbacks from broadcasting rights deals revolving around several Concacaf competitions, including the Gold Cup, as well allegedly receiving and co-opting bribes surrounding the voting for the 2010 World Cup, that was awarded and held in South Africa.
A member of the Fifa Executive Committee from 1983, and Concacaf president from 1990 until his eventual resignation and banning for life in 2011, Warner was once said to have conspired with Fifa presidential aspirant Mohamed Bin Hammam — also suspended for life — to buy votes from representative delegates, including Bermuda’s, which at the time told of their immediate refusal of a “gift package” purportedly containing $40,000 in 2011.
The United States Department of Justice initiated a dawn raid of the five-star Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich on May 27, 2015 that led to the arrests of seven high-ranking football officials and indictments for 14 in total, including Warner and Chuck Blazer, a former Fifa official, among them.
Asked to comment on the recent ruling and continued cleansing of Concacaf, which has several United States law enforcement divisions involved in the case, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mark Wade, the Bermuda Football Association president, said: “We continue to follow the Department of Justice investigation and subsequent legal proceedings closely. Concacaf has won this case against one of the higher profile officials.
“We applaud Concacaf’s resolve to ensure all of the illegal and unethical activities are brought to light. Now that there has been success in this suit it remains to be seen whether Concacaf will be able to collect on any of the money.”
Wade noted there to be a demonstrated renewed commitment towards establishing the integrity of the organisation, with Bermuda having a vital role to play.
“Concacaf and Fifa have implemented substantial reforms that have improved confidence in the business dealings of both organisations,” he added.
“There has been significant procedural improvements and persons brought before the courts. However, recent new cases are proof that we will have to remain ever vigilant in the fight against corruption.”
Wade stood in support of Larry Mussenden, the former BFA president, when he challenged to fill the presidential void at the top of Concacaf in the aftermath of the scandal, although the bid by the latter ultimately failed.
“President Mussenden asked me to support his campaign by having discussions with presidents from around the region lobbying for their support,” Wade added.
“Particularly during regional meetings. Bermuda officials played a significant role in exposing corruption during a meeting in Trinidad in May of 2011. This started the process of change in Concacaf and Fifa.
“The focus of the executive team now is on Bermuda and improving our member clubs administratively and technically on the field of play.”
The Nations League, which will involve Bermuda in the top tier in the autumn with group games against Mexico and Panama, was rolled out to replace meaningless friendlies.
“We expect corporate confidence in the region to continue to improve and see positive results via increased revenues for regional competitions like the Nations League, Gold Cup and Scotia Bank Champions League,” Wade added.
“We will work with our member clubs to improve them administratively off the pitch and the product on the pitch. Our national teams are being seeded higher based on our improved performance and we will continue the upward trajectory across all age groups and genders.
“The completion of the next strategic plan is a key component. We anticipate having it completed in the coming months.”
Warner, who also was forced out of his Trinidadian government roles as a result of his expanding legal and exposure for corruption, is yet facing extradition to the US for criminal prosecution, with the 76-year-old appealing to his country’s Privy Council in last ditch attempts to avoid surrender.
Two of Warner’s sons, Daryll and Daryan were also implicated in corruption scandals surrounding the sport, pleading guilty in 2013 to fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and the structuring of financial transactions.
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