Published May 23, 2012
BUDAPEST, Hungary – A list of alleged financial mismanagement allegations against former CONCACAF leaders Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer was outlined to 40 soccer nations Wednesday, just minutes after they elected Jeffrey Webb as their new president.
Officials from across Central American and the Caribbean angrily turned on Blazer, their former general secretary and the most senior American official in world soccer, and voted to seek his removal from FIFA's executive committee.
FIFA must decide how to deal with the issue at its full Congress of 208 countries on Friday.
"There are robbers with guns and there are robbers with white collars — and I don't want us to be represented by a thief with a white collar in FIFA," Cuba soccer president Luis Hernandez told Webb during his first meeting with delegates as president.
Citing illness, Blazer did not attend the meeting, which detailed an audit of CONCACAF's finances conducted after he stepped down as the body's top administrator in December.
The head of Mexican soccer, Justino Compean, said Blazer was "manipulating information" and said he was responsible for "obscene irregularities."
Blazer's commissions helped push CONCACAF's staff costs to $9 million from income of $38 million last year.
"We feel let down, disappointed, dismayed," Webb said.
CONCACAF, which is based in the Bahamas, but also has offices in New York, has reported itself to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service because it failed to report tax returns since at least 2007, legal counsel John Collins said.
"It is difficult to predict what CONCACAF's exposure will be," Collins said.
Blazer also is suing CONCACAF for unpaid commissions on television and sponsorship deals, delegates were told.
Warner ruled CONCACAF and Caribbean soccer for almost three decades before he resigned last year under pressure from FIFA amid a bribery scandal.
The revelation of Warner's legal ownership of a $22.5 million CONCACAF center of excellence in his native Trinidad and Tobago stunned officials. They also were outraged when they learned that Warner and former CONCACAF vice president Lisle Austin took out an unauthorized mortgage on the sprawling property in 2007.
Webb, a Cayman Islands banker, was the only candidate to succeed Warner, a former FIFA vice president.
One year ago, Webb's home country was one of four whistle-blowers on allegations of bribery, involving Warner and Qatar's Mohammed bin Hammam, who attempted to run against FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
Webb vowed to concentrate on the game and promised to shift the region's focus from "politics and economics" to soccer.
Most members applauded the suggestion that Blazer be investigated by a FIFA ethics panel. They hailed the new president for saying: "We have a responsibility to make sure the past ... will never be repeated."
Webb pledged that CONCACAF nations should work on improving the game in the region and strive to win the World Cup in 2026.
Webb lamented that the confederation neglected the development of the game in the region of 540 million people.
"What has our focus been? Politics and economics. Let us focus on our game," Webb said. He urged greater transparency as CONCACAF attempts to reform and modernize in line with new FIFA guidelines.
"We must move the clouds and allow the sunshine in," Webb said, adding, "the 2026 World Cup belongs to CONCACAF."
Blatter hailed Webb's election to the world body's executive committee.
"The credibility of CONCACAF is back," Blatter said. "We also in FIFA need credibility, but we cannot have it if one of our confederations was still a little bit shaky."
CONCACAF officials also looked over its accounts, which have been analyzed since March by consultants BDO.
"Material weaknesses and significant deficiencies" in financial controls through 2010 were revealed and the body also had "potential tax liabilities" in excess of its $2 million allocated reserves, delegates were told.
Webb said CONCACAF members would be called to a congress at the end of the year when the body's financial and tax affairs will be further scrutinized.