FBI’s Freeh, FIFA Bribe Investigators to Visit Bahamas After Miami Snubbed

Bloomberg News
Published: June 10, 2011

A team led by former Federal Bureau of Investigation head Louis Freeh that is looking into allegations of bribery in the presidential election of soccer’s governing body will go to the Bahamas to meet with officials who refused to travel to the U.S.

Meanwhile, the Trinidad & Tobago Police Service said today it will ask FIFA, soccer’s Switzerland-based international federation, for details of its investigation into accusations that Caribbean members were offered $40,000 each in exchange for support.

Members of the Caribbean Football Union declined an invitation to meet Freeh’s group in Miami earlier this week, saying they’d only participate if the sessions took place in the West Indies. They also questioned FIFA’s decision to hire a U.S. firm to look into allegations that some regional officials were offered and accepted cash bribes to vote for Mohamed Bin Hammam, a challenger to President Sepp Blatter.

“The Caribbean Football Union and its members welcome an unbiased, impartial and independent investigation into the matter,” a CFU spokesman said from the organization’s headquarters in Trinidad. “FIFA has agreed to move venues and it will be held in the Bahamas.”

The spokesman didn’t give a date for the meeting. FIFA didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Freeh couldn’t immediately comment, his office said today.

May Meeting

The allegations are linked to a May 10-11 meeting in Trinidad arranged by FIFA Vice President Jack Warner to allow Bin Hammam to lobby for votes. Bin Hammam and Warner have been suspended by FIFA pending the investigation. Both deny wrongdoing.

Caribbean officials, led by acting CFU President Horace Burrell, have complained about the choice of a U.S. investigator. They argue that because American soccer official Chuck Blazer made the initial bribery allegation, an investigator from another country should be selected.

FIFA’s head of security, Chris Eaton, said Freeh’s probe would continue whether the officials cooperated or not.

“Talking is one way of investigating, that’s all,” Eaton said in an interview. “There are other ways to do an investigation and I’m fairly certain that the professionals at the Freeh Group will do that. There are a lot of options available.”

Complaint to FIFA

Five officials told Chicago-based lawyer John Collins they had been offered money. Collins filed the complaint to FIFA on behalf of Blazer, the general secretary of Concacaf, the body responsible for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, which Warner had run since 1990. Twelve CFU members provided letters denying they’d seen any money change hands at the meeting.

The statement from the Trinidad & Tobago police, made to the country’s minority party and issued in a news release, said the lack of evidence beyond media reports currently made it “impracticable” to pursue a criminal investigation into the bribery allegations.

“Notwithstanding the above, it is our intention to write to FIFA requesting information which they may have in their possession which may afford us the opportunity of commencing any investigation(s) into any alleged criminal activity within our jurisdiction,” the police service said.