FIFA opens 16 Caribbean cases in bribery scandal

By the Associated Press | August 11, 2011 | 2:29 PM EDT

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA asked its ethics committee to investigate 16 Caribbean soccer leaders Thursday about a bribery scandal involving former presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam.

The officials are suspected of being offered or taking $40,000 in cash to back Bin Hammam against FIFA President Sepp Blatter, then denying the corruption attempt to investigators led by former FBI director Louis Freeh.

FIFA says the suspects from 11 Caribbean countries include Colin Klass of Guyana, a long-standing ally of former Caribbean soccer strongman Jack Warner. FIFA says Klass has been provisionally suspended.

FIFA said Klass, a member of the governing body's Futsal and Beach Soccer Committee, has been provisionally suspended "after consideration of the specific information received on this matter."

FIFA says the 16 will be invited for new interviews by Freeh's team as part of an investigation led by Robert Torres, a supreme court judge from Guam.

"It is important to note that the investigations are still ongoing, and that it is therefore possible that further proceedings could be opened in the future," FIFA said in a statement.

The list also includes Mark Bob Forde from Barbados, who was a FIFA-approved international referee for almost 20 years.

Haiti federation president Yves Jean-Bart is also under investigation. He made a speech at the FIFA Congress on June 1 criticizing English officials who wanted Blatter's election delayed while corruption allegations were fully investigated.

The second wave of cases follows bin Hammam's life ban last month.

FIFA's ethics panel also suspended two Caribbean Football Union staffers for one year for their part in distributing the cash-stuffed brown envelopes in a Trinidad hotel.

FIFA invited officials from CFU member countries for "truthful and complete reporting" of what happened during the Qatari candidate's May 10 campaign visit to Trinidad.

FIFA's legal process typically means accused officials are called before the ethics panel, which decides if the evidence demands more investigation and a full hearing some weeks later. Those under suspicion face being provisionally suspended from any soccer duty, including contacting other officials and attending national team games.

The scandal threatens to remove some of the Caribbean's most influential soccer leaders during a busy period of 2014 World Cup qualification matches.

Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Guyana — who each have officials on the FIFA list — have been drawn in a four-team, second-round group which is played from September to November. Their group is completed by Bermuda, whose officials were among the original whistleblowers exposing the scandal.

On Wednesday, FIFA suspended its most senior official from Barbados, Lisle Austin, for one year.

Austin, a member of FIFA's referees committee, broke soccer rules by going to an ordinary civil court with a legal grievance against the CONCACAF continental body in the aftermath of the bribery scandal.

Warner resigned all his soccer duties and privileges in June rather than face FIFA justice. A leaked report revealed that the five-man ethics panel believed it had "compelling" evidence of a bribery conspiracy between Warner and his longtime FIFA colleague bin Hammam.

Warner had been an executive committee member for 28 years and was president of CONCACAF and the CFU, representing 25 of the 208 FIFA members.

The Trinidad and Tobago government minister returned to his home island with what FIFA called a "presumption of innocence."