FIFA suspends two T&T officials after bin Hammam probe

(Trinidad Express) Trinidadians Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester are among three football officials who were yesterday banned by the FIFA Ethics Committee, under the chairmanship of Petrus Damaseb of Namibia. The pair, Caribbean Football Union (CFU) employees, were banned from taking part in any football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) for a one-year period after they were found to have breached various articles of the FIFA Code of Ethics. Asian Football chief Mohamed bin Hammam was banned for life.

The decisions were taken during a two-day meeting of the Ethics Committee held in Zurich on 22-23, July 2011.

Damaseb, a judge from Namibia, also called for a second wave of investigations.

Damaseb’s five-man panel asked FIFA’s legal department to prepare cases against officials who attended bin Hammam’s campaign stop at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port of Spain. Those present included executive committee members Worawi Makudi of Thailand, Vernon Manilal Fernando of Sri Lanka and Hany Abou Rida from Egypt. Caribbean soccer leaders believed to have taken Bin Hammam’s bribes, and denying to FIFA investigators that any corruption took place, are also under suspicion as well.

Furthermore, CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer (FIFA Executive Committee member) received a warning for comments he made on May 30 at the CONCACAF Caucus held in Zurich. These comments suggested some CFU members were “under investigation”.

At the time that was not true. FIFA’s panel also dismissed an additional CFU complaint that Blazer’s comment was racially motivated.

However, facing the harshest sanction was Asian Football Federation president bin Hammam, also a member of FIFA’s executive committee.

The case centred on bin Hammam’s campaign visit to former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner’s native T&T for a May 10-11 meeting to lobby CFU members.

The Caribbean nations hold 25 of FIFA’s 208 votes and were considered key to defeating Blatter. However, whistleblowers revealed they sat through bin Hammam’s pitch at the Port of Spain hotel, then lined up outside a different room to collect a “gift”. Inside, CFU staff handed over brown envelopes stuffed with US$40,000 in four piles of US$100 bills.

Minguell and Sylvester both worked for Warner, and were accused by several CFU members such as Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and Suriname of giving them parcels containing cash. Former FIFA vice-president and CFU president Warner, who facilitated Bin Hammam’s meeting with the CFU officials, was also implicated in the scandal. The charges against Warner were subsequently dropped after he resigned, but FIFA say they would be renewed if he ever returns to football.

Damaseb dismissed suggestions that Warner, who also surrendered his jobs as president of the CONCACAF confederation and CFU, had disrespected FIFA’s legal process.

“I think everybody would have wanted him to appear, to stand and justify and … explain his conduct, and he chose not to do that,” the judge said. “He (Warner) is presumed innocent.”

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