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CONCACAF report reveals fraud at executive level

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The Canadian Press
4/19/2013 8:53:20 PM
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PANAMA CITY -- The former president and secretary general of the Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Football enriched themselves through fraud during their terms with the organization, said a report by CONCACAF's ethics and integrity committee released Friday.

The committee presented an extensive report on the activities of former President Jack Warner and former Secretary General Chuck Blazer at the CONCACAF congress, also attended by FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

"Our information shows they committed fraud," committee member David Anthony Cathcart Simmons said. The committee based its findings on documents and interviews with dozens of people.

The 70-year-old Warner resigned as CONCACAF president in June 2011 after Blazer accused him and then-Asian confederation head Mohamed bin Hammam of attempting to bribe Caribbean delegates $40,000 each to vote for bin Hammam in the FIFA presidential election. Blazer resigned as CONCACAF's secretary general in December 2011.

Blazer didn't respond to an email seeking comment. In the past, he attributed money he received to commissions he says were due him for commercial contracts he negotiated.

The committee focused its report on Warner, who had headed CONCACAF for almost 30 years, and Blazer's administrative and financial dealings. It found "fraud" in the management of a training centre built in 1995 to help players in the region train and improve their game, Simmons said.

The centre, which was later named in honour of former FIFA president Joao Havelange, was built in the Caribbean city of Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad and Tobago, Warner's home country. At the time, Warner was also a FIFA vice-president.

"Warner represented to FIFA that funds would be used to support development but never told FIFA that Centre would be situated on land owned by his companies," Simmons said.

Warner "deceived persons and organizations" into believing the facility was CONCACAF's and not his, he added.

Almost $26 million were invested in that project between 1996 and 2006. A good portion of the funds were donated by FIFA.

The committee didn't have access to the training centre's finance centre and neither Warner nor Blazer co-operated with the investigation, Simmons said.

Warner is currently Trinidad and Tobago's National Security Minister.

Blazer embezzled at least $21 million by compensating himself with CONCACAF funds without any authorization, Simmons said.

Blazer, the most senior American official at FIFA for 16 years, also bought some apartments with CONCACAF money, he added.

Simmons said Blazer, 67, was "entirely negligent" because he didn't file income tax returns for the organization in the United States, which led to the CONCACAF to lose its non-profit organization tax-exempt status.

Simmons also said the auditors Warner used while he presided the organization, Trinidad-based Kenny Rampersad and Company, whose services were also used by Warner and Blazer for personal financial matters.

"I have recounted a sad and sorry tale in the life of CONCACAF, a tale of abuse of position and power, by persons who assisted in bringing the organization to profitability but who enriched themselves at the expense of their very own organizations," said Simmons, a former Barbados chief justice, while talking about the report for more than an hour.

Both Warner and Blazer deny any wrongdoing.

CONCACAF appointed the investigative committee after they resigned.

Jack Warner (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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