By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published June 15, 2015
In my last article, I likened former CONCACAF president Jack Warner to Don Vito Corleone from “The Godfather”, FIFA’s own Mafia boss, or one of many it would seem. If Jack was Don Vito, without question, Jeffrey Webb, his successor was Don Michael Corleone, Vito’s son and successor. Webb, like Warner, was arrested a few weeks ago for Byzantine Sicilian-type schemes involving conspiracy, wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering.
In Sicilian crime families, there is an organizational structure. A boss or don is the head of the crime family. His second in command or future successor is the underboss, and his advisor, counselor, or accountant often acts as his consigliere. These three comprise the “Administration”, or the ruling panel in the crime family.
THE DON, UNDERBOSS & CONSIGLIERE
When Webb succeeded Warner, and Enrique Sanz replaced Chuck Blazer as general secretary, they promised reforms and a great new era in the operations and management of CONCACAF. We were told that the days of greased palms and stuffed envelopes were behind us. However, according to the 47 count indictment by the US Attorney General, “Upon assuming their respective positions, Webb and Co-conspirator #4 (Enrique Sanz) … resumed their involvement in criminal schemes”. Resumed?
Before joining CONCACAF, Enrique Sanz was an executive of Traffic USA, a sports marketing company “involved in the purchase and sale of media and marketing rights”. It’s alleged in the indictment; Traffic USA often facilitated bribes to Warner and Blazer for the acquisition and renewal of these rights, and Sanz was “involved in these schemes”. Ironically, after taking office, Webb appointed Sanz as his general secretary in July 2012 and said, “I am certain that we have found a professional with competence and integrity to implement our road map to reform.” Integrity? You would think Webb was auditioning for a stand-up comedy special.
Interestingly, in early 2012, it’s alleged, Sanz, then an executive at Traffic USA contributed US$50,000 to Webb’s candidacy for the CONCACAF President, through a Caymanian company controlled by a Costas Takkas, a longtime associate of Webb and a co-defendant in the indictment. Shortly thereafter, Jeffrey Webb (the don), Enrique Sanz (the underboss) and Costas Takkas (the consigliere or attaché) became the de facto three-man ruling panel of CONCACAF, and their involvement in criminal schemes ushered in (a round of applause) … the old era.
CFU WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS SCHEME
Like in the days of Warner, the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) member associations pooled and sold their “home team” media and marketing rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Webb, representing the CFU then, participated in those negotiations. In 2012, it’s alleged that Takkas told Sanz, then an executive of Traffic USA, that “Webb wanted a US$3 million bribe in exchange for his agreement” to award the CFU contract, worth US$23 million, to Traffic USA. Later that year, 50% of the bribe payment was “made to accounts held in the name of entities controlled by Takkas … and then forwarded through an intermediary account to Jeffrey Webb”.
The indictment alleged that the funds were used to buy real estate properties in Georgia, USA and to pay for the building of a swimming pool at one of the real estate properties. In all, according to the indictment, Webb has four residential properties in Georgia, USA.
The indictment specified that, “The use of defendant Costas Takkas’s company to receive the payment, and Takkas’s participation in the transaction as an intermediary … was intended to conceal the fact that the defendant Jeffrey Webb was the beneficiary of the payment.”
CONCACAF GOLD CUP/CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SCHEME
In November 2012, and again in November 2013, its alleged Sanz, in his new role as General Secretary of CONCACAF, solicited US$1.1 million and US$2 million bribe payments on behalf of Webb, from Traffic USA. These bribe payments were for the acquisition and renewal of “the exclusive worldwide commercial rights” for five editions of the CONCACAF Gold Cup (from 2013 to 2021) and for nine seasons of the CONCACAF Champions league (from 2013 to 2022).
The indictment went on to state that about December 2013, the US$1.1 million bribe payment was transferred to “an account in the name of Soccer Uniform Company A”. Soccer Uniform Company A manufactures football uniforms and footballs and has a connection to another close associate of Webb, only identified as Co-conspirator #23. Some have speculated, based on his description in the indictment, that Co-conspirator #23 might be a high-profile official of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF). However, that’s only speculation. We have to be responsible.
In addition, the indictment further alludes that even though Webb eventually agreed to the US$2 million bribe payment for the renewal of the rights, he had indicated he wanted more.
CONMEBOL/CONCACAF COPA AMÉRICA CENTENARIO SCHEME
In May 2013, Traffic USA and two other sports marketing companies merged to form Datisa, “a new company that would obtain and exploit the commercial rights” to four editions of the Copa América (from 2015-2023), including the special 2016 centennial edition to be held in the United States. The Copa América Centenario (2016 edition) will include 10 CONMEBOL teams and six CONCACAF teams.
It’s alleged that Datisa agreed to pay Webb a bribe “to acquire the CONCACAF rights to the tournament”. From my surgical perusal of the indictment, though not directly stated, it would seem that the agreed bribe was approximately US$10 million.
SUCH PROMISE; SUCH DISAPPOINTMENT
Webb, the youngest confederation president in FIFA was heralded as “The Anointed One”, and the future successor to FIFA president Sepp Blatter. He served on various high-level committees at FIFA including the development, emergency, executive, finance, and strategic committees. His future in FIFA looked exceedingly bright. However, it seems Webb has convoluted himself because of greed and has concurrently vanquished the hopes of a first FIFA president from CONCACAF. Sadly, the once expectant prince may transition to a castaway prisoner.
Interestingly, another co-defendant in the indictment, who just turned himself in last week, Alejandro Burzazo made a precognitive and unforgettable statement, in 2014, to other co-defendants and co-conspirators regarding the bribery scheme(s). He said, “All can get hurt because of this subject … All of us (can) go to prison.” With 17 of the 47 counts in the indictment connected to the tangled Webb, it seems that he and many others most certainly will.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
From the “Lies & Statistics” Column in the Western Mirror (Published Monday, June 15, 2015)