FIFA bans Jamaica's Burrell in bribery plot
FIFA banned senior Caribbean official Horace Burrell for six months on Friday for the Jamaican's part in a bribery case involving former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam, plunging the region's football authorities deeper into chaos.sports Updated: Oct 15, 2011 12:05 IST
FIFA banned senior Caribbean official Horace Burrell for six months on Friday for the Jamaican's part in a bribery case involving former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam, plunging the region's football authorities deeper into chaos.
Burrell, a long time ally of former FIFA vice president Jack Warner and a member of FIFA's disciplinary committee, must now withdraw his candidacy in the Caribbean Football Union presidential election scheduled in November.
Since the bribery scandal broke in May, the CONCACAF continental body has seen its top three elected Caribbean officials Warner, Burrell and Lisle Austin either resign while under investigation or be banned by FIFA.
FIFA's ethics committee ruled that three months of Jamaican Football Federation president Burrell's ban will be deferred for a probationary period of two years.
Burrell accepted the ban, saying in a statement that Friday's actions "are harsh and painful for me personally, but I will not appeal the decision, considering the relative levity of the sanction and the cause for which it was handed down."
He said it will be up to the JFF to decide his future with the national body whether to replace him temporarily for the length of the ban or permanently but he still saw a future for himself within FIFA.
"I have no reason to doubt that I shall be readmitted to my present FIFA functions after the three-months suspension has been served," Burrell said.
Three other Caribbean officials also received bans.
Franka Pickering, president of the British Virgin Islands federation and one of the most senior women in world football, was suspended for 18 months.
FIFA issued 30-day bans to Osiris Guzman, president of the Dominican Republic football federation, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines general secretary Ian Hypolite. Fifteen days of their sanctions were deferred for six months.
The ethics panel met for three days this week to weigh evidence of CFU members allegedly accepting $40,000 cash payments from bin Hammam in May.
The Qatari official made a campaign visit to Trinidad, the home island of then-CFU leader Warner, to woo voters during his challenge to FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Bin Hammam was banned for life by FIFA in July.
Friday's verdicts extend a trail of damage across Caribbean football, with Burrell having been favored to win a 4-candidate poll in Jamaica on Nov. 20 to succeed Warner as CFU leader. Burrell's bid was ultimately ended by his own voters.
Former Jamaica Prime Minister Edward Seaga, who is president of his country's Premier League Clubs Association, said he regretted the sanctions against Burrell.
"(He) has given great service to Jamaican football," Seaga said. "But we must also be happy that FIFA is taking steps to clean the nest of corruption in Caribbean football."
Seaga, who had called on Warner to resign in June, did not say if Burrell would step down as Jamaica Football Federation president.
Whistleblowers from four Caribbean countries sparked the probe by telling CONCACAF's American general secretary Chuck Blazer that brown envelopes stuffed with $100 bills were being offered in a Port of Spain hotel.
Blazer's alert to FIFA led the football body to hire former FBI director Louis Freeh's investigation agency to interview Caribbean officials and gather evidence for the ethics panel.
Burrell and Pickering both featured in a video leaked this week of Warner addressing officials on May 11, the day after they listened to bin Hammam's pitch and were offered money.
When Warner is filmed telling his members they can refuse the cash gift and give it to a fellow member in need, Pickering smiles, raises her hand and is acknowledged by Warner.
Burrell's suspension arises from his initial refusal to co-operate with the investigation. He said he was unwilling to travel outside the Caribbean region for questioning and "lack of clarity" on how the investigation was being conducted.
"Despite the fact that I have now suffered the consequences for my original assessment, I maintain that it was the right thing to do to protest against the fact that CFU members were ordered (to) territory outside of the Caribbean to be questioned and testify," Burrell said.
"I accept that I possibly decided to co-operate with the investigation too late but that was my decision at the time and I stand by it while accepting the sanction which resulted from my lack of cooperation in the initial phase of the investigation."
FIFA's ethics panel reprimanded three other officials on Friday: St. Kitts and Nevis football president Anthony Johnson, U.S. Virgin Islands president Hillaren Frederick and Aubrey Liburd, vice president of the British Virgin Islands football body.
Five others received warnings, including FIFA committee members Yves Jean-Bart, the Haiti football president, and Richard Groden, Trinidad and Tobago's general secretary.
Former international referee Mark Bob Forde was also warned, along with his fellow Barbados official David Hinds and Burrell's federation general secretary Horace Reid.
FIFA said it dropped cases against David Fredericks of the Cayman Islands and Joseph Delves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines because they had left the sport.
"Should they return to football official positions, their cases would be examined again by the ethics committee," FIFA said in a statement.
FIFA did not give the officials the same "presumption of innocence" it accorded Warner in June when the 28-year executive committee veteran resigned rather than face sanctions.
However, the reputation of Warner's Caribbean football empire lies shattered after the sanctions announced Friday.
Another of Warner's long-standing allies, Colin Klass of Guyana, received a 26-month ban from FIFA's ethics panel last month.
FIFA banned Barbados official Austin for one year after he used a civil court in the Bahamas to pursue his bid, as interim president of CONCACAF, to fire Blazer in what was seen as act of revenge on Warner's behalf
Also Friday, FIFA said a hearing into the case of Guyana official Noel Adonis was postponed and a case left open into the conduct of St. Lucia official Patrick Mathurin.
FIFA cleared Felix Ledesma of the Dominican Republic of committing any violation.
After the scandal emerged, bin Hammam withdrew his election bid three days before the FIFA vote in June. He denies bribery and is appealing his life ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Blatter ran unopposed and won a fourth four-year presidential term. He was endorsed by 186 FIFA members, including most Caribbean islands.
FIFA's executive committee meets next week for the time since the election, and will probably do so without a Caribbean delegate because the process of replacing Warner was stalled by Austin's legal action.
Blatter is scheduled next Friday to provide the first details of his promised anti-corruption project to clean up world football and its damaged image.
First Published: Oct 15, 2011 12:00 IST