FIFA hires ex-FBI boss agency for bribery probe

FIFA has hired former FBI director Louis Freeh’s investigations agency to gather evidence following allegations that Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner offered $40,000 bribes to voters during its presidential campaign.

FIFA said Friday that Freeh Group International Europe was “mandated” to help its ethics committee, which will summon the two suspended senior officials to a full inquiry expected to be held next month. “This company will work under the direct supervision and responsibility of Judge Robert T. Torres, member of the ethics committee who has been entrusted by the committee with supervising and directing the investigation,” FIFA said in a statement.

Freeh founded FGI after leading the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1993-2001. Freeh previously served six years as a special agent.

The work will include interviewing Caribbean Football Union officials who allegedly were offered cash bribes at a meeting in Warner’s native Trinidad to back bin Hammam’s FIFA presidential bid. Bin Hammam withdraw his candidacy last Sunday, hours before FIFA’s ethics panel provisionally suspended him and FIFA vice president Warner pending the full hearing. They deny arranging bribes, and the Qatari challenger alleged that supporters of FIFA President Sepp Blatter conspired to remove him from the election contest.

Blatter, who was cleared by the ethics panel of turning a blind eye to intended corruption, was re-elected unopposed on Wednesday. The ongoing bribery investigation is set to ensure that Blatter’s fourth and final four-year term begins with the worst corruption scandal in FIFA’s 107-year history in the spotlight.

One of Warner’s longtime Caribbean allies, Horace Burrell of Jamaica, denied on Thursday that his island’s governing body was involved. “Let me state categorically that the (Jamaica federation) was not offered, neither received any funds prior to, during nor after the CFU meeting held May 10-11 in Trinidad,” Burrell said in a statement.

The scandal broke when Chuck Blazer, the U.S. representative on FIFA’s ruling panel, delivered a file of evidence including witness statements from four CFU member countries. Blazer told The Associated Press this week that “much more evidence” would emerge from Caribbean officials, who were advised in Zurich to hand over the money to FIFA and assist the inquiry, or face being placed under suspicion.

Officials from Puerto Rico arrived in Switzerland on Sunday for the FIFA Congress bearing a check for $40,000. Warner returned to Trinidad late Thursday, pledging to continue hitting FIFA with the “football tsunami” he promised one week earlier.

The Trinidad & Tobago government minister told reporters that he would reveal details of an email exchange with Blatter when he meets supporters at a rally on Sunday. “The contents of the email are crystal clear as to what transpired,” he said.

Warner has already published private correspondence to embarrass FIFA, where he is a 28 year-veteran of its executive committee. In an email, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke wrote to Warner last month that Qatar “bought” hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup.

Valcke later explained that he referred only to Qatar’s financial muscle and had not implied wrongdoing by the emirate’s bid, which defeated the U.S. in a final round of voting in December.