Surinam soccer chief describes alleged bribery attempt
In the clearest and most detailed description yet regarding the alleged attempt to bribe leaders of the Caribbean Football Union, the president of Surinam's soccer association has said it received $40,000 "in $100 bills in a brown envelope" at a meeting of CFU leaders in Port of Spain, Trinidad, last month.
The CFU is part of CONCACAF, soccer's North and Central American and Caribbean region, and CFU officials were in Port of Spain on May 9 and 10 to be wooed by Qatar's Mohamed Bin Hammam, president of the Asian Football Confederation. At the time, Bin Hammam was running against incumbent Joseph "Sepp" Blatter for the presidency of FIFA, world soccer's ruling body.
The meeting in Trinidad was arranged by Jack Warner, CONCACAF's president and vice president of FIFA.
Subsequently, American Chuck Blazer, CONCACAF's general secretary and a member of FIFA's executive committee, reported to FIFA that attempts to bribe CFU members were made at the meeting. Bin Hammam and Warner were provisionally suspended from all soccer activity worldwide. Both denied the allegations and Bin Hammam withdrew from the presidential election.
The investigation has since been hampered by the refusal of many of the 25 CFU leaders to be interviewed on the matter, but Surinam's soccer chief is one of several who have spoken out.
"We went up to a room and were given $40,000 in a brown envelope with the name of Surinam on it," Louis Giskus, president of Surinam's soccer association, told Britain's Press Assn.
"I asked if we would get problems with customs leaving Port of Spain with that amount of money and he [Sylvester] told us there would be no problems. I wrote his mobile [cellphone] number on the envelope so that if there were problems at the airport we could call it."
Sylvester was one of two CFU officials suspended by FIFA in addition to Bin Hammam and Warner.
Other CFU leaders, notably from the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands, also have described attempts to give them identical amounts of money.
Suspicious about the origin of the cash and the intent behind it, Fred Lunn, vice president of the Bahamas soccer association, photographed the envelope and money before returning it. His photographs are part of the evidence now in FIFA's hands.
The investigation is being moved out of Miami by FIFA after some CFU members complained that it was driven by an American agenda, presumably to discredit Bin Hammam after Qatar defeated the U.S. for the right to stage the 2022 World Cup.
Warner, meanwhile, has said he will not be talking to investigators, even though they represent the FIFA ethics committee.
"I have not received any summons asking me to speak with them, nor do I plan to do so," he told the Press Assn.
-- Grahame L. Jones
Photo: Jack Warner. Credit: Luis Acosta /AFP/Getty Images