T&T Football Federation general secretary, Richard Groden faces a possible ban from FIFA on Friday as the latest wave of its election bribery cases began yesterday.
The case began with 15 Caribbean Football Union officials explaining their part in an alleged plot involving former presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam. FIFA said its ethics committee will hear the defendants over three days, and was expected to deliver verdicts on Friday. The 15 officials from 11 Caribbean countries are accused of accepting $40,000 cash payments in T&T during Bin Hammam’s later-abandoned challenge to FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
They were charged after FIFA appointed former FBI director Louis Freeh to continue leading an investigation that began in May. FIFA’s gravest scandal in 107 years has removed two of its most influential powerbrokers—Asian football president Bin Hammam and FIFA vice president Jack Warner—from office after a combined 43 years sitting on world soccer’s ruling executive committee. Bin Hammam, who denies bribery, is appealing his lifetime ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and FIFA dropped charges against T&T Minister of Works Warner after he resigned his soccer positions in June.
The defendants now facing bans include FIFA committee members Yves Jean-Bart of Haiti and Groden, a close ally of Warner. Jean-Bart sits on the associations panel that monitors FIFA’s 208 national members and Groden helps allocate tens of millions of dollars of development funding as a member of the Goal Bureau which Bin Hammam chaired for 12 years. The Haitian official is among five national association presidents answering charges this week, including one of soccer’s most senior women officials: Franka Pickering of the British Virgin Islands. Former international referee Mark Bob Forde of Barbados has also been charged and faces a ban from soccer duty.
Along with Bin Hammam in July, FIFA’s ethics panel suspended two Caribbean Football Union members of staff after ruling that they distributed $40,000 cash payments in brown envelopes at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in T&T. Caribbean Football Union vice-president Colin Klass, a longtime Warner ally, received a 26-month FIFA ban after a separate hearing last month. The Guyana federation president lost his seat on FIFA’s futsal and beach soccer committee. Qatari candidate Bin Hammam withdrew his election bid three days before the FIFA poll in June. Blatter was left unopposed to receive a fourth four-year presidential term, and was endorsed by 186 FIFA members, including most Caribbean islands.
Blatter is scheduled on October 21 to provide details of his promised anti-corruption project to clean up world soccer and its damaged image. – AP Zurich