FIFA gives last chance to bribery suspects
ZURICH (AP) — Caribbean soccer leaders were given 48 hours by FIFA to explain their part in a Trinidad meeting where Mohamed bin Hammam allegedly offered them bribes or face life bans from the sport.
Caribbean Football Union members have been asked for their "truthful and complete" versions of events, FIFA said Tuesday. Soccer's scandal-hit governing body sent letters Monday setting a Wednesday deadline to provide explanations and confessions.
"Any person who has relevant information but does not come forward during this 48-hour period will be subject to the full range of sanctions," FIFA said in a statement.
FIFA's ethics committee banned Qatar's bin Hammam for life on Saturday after ruling he offered $40,000 cash bribes to Caribbean officials to back his later-abandoned presidential bid to unseat Sepp Blatter.
In its letter to all 25 CFU members, FIFA asked "the associations, their presidents and any of their members ... (for) knowledge of anything that transpired" in Trinidad at a May 10-11 conference, which bin Hammam acknowledges he paid for.
"Following this 48-hour period, the ethics committee will be asked to open the necessary ethics proceedings," FIFA said. "Truthful and complete reporting will be considered in mitigation by the ethics committee when deciding on potential sanctions."
At least nine Caribbean countries have cooperated with FIFA's investigation into the bribery claims, and a tenth — Cuba — was not present in Trinidad.
Of the 15 remaining CFU members, 12 wrote testimony denying the allegations and supporting bin Hammam and Caribbean soccer powerbroker Jack Warner when they first appeared before FIFA's ethics panel in May.
Those supporters were targeted in recent weeks by FIFA investigators, led by former FBI director Louis Freeh, but some did not cooperate or did not accept invitations to be quizzed in Miami and the Bahamas last month.
The sanctions threatened by FIFA could potentially remove the Caribbean's most experienced soccer leaders.
Most are longtime allies of Warner, who avoided the ethics panel's scrutiny by resigning from all soccer positions last month, including his 28-year seat on FIFA's executive committee, and his presidencies of the CONCACAF regional confederation and the CFU.
FIFA said Warner maintained a "presumption of innocence" as he returned to his job as a government minister in Trinidad and Tobago.
Bin Hammam denies wrongdoing and has pledged to appeal his lifetime ban.
Two CFU staffers, Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester, got one-year bans from FIFA on Saturday for their part distributing the cash payments.
Whistleblowers told FIFA the money was handed over in four piles of $100 bills stuffed into a brown envelope.