Regional football has been dealt another major blow.
Just six months after CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb and former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner were indicted on corruption charges, over a dozen more high ranking officials from the region were charged today by the US, as investigations into corruption at the football’s world governing body continue.
Two of FIFA’s vice-presidents Alfredo Hawit, who was serving as CONCACAF’s interim president and Juan Angel Napout, the head of CONMEBOL were among 16 Central and South American officials indicted in a corruption investigation earlier today.
The duo were led away by Swiss federal police in a predawn raid at the luxury Baur au Lac hotel.
Hawit, a Honduran, only replaced Webb after he was indicted in May, along with Warner another former FIFA vice-president currently facing extradition to the US to answer bribery charges.
Among those also charged are Guatemala’s FA Chief Brayan Jimenez, Bolivia’s football president Carlos Chavez, Brazil’s football president Marco Polo del Nero and CONMEBOL general secretary Eduardo Deluca.
While describing today’s developments as shocking, President of the Barbados Football Association [BFA] Randy Harris told Barbados TODAY he hopes the arrests would serve as a lesson to those who believe they can use the sport of football for their personal benefit.
“I think what has happened today is very serious because obviously Hawit took over when Jeffrey Webb was arrested in Zurich, and obviously we would have felt that he was above board and everything should be cool. But obviously this business in football has really spread its tentacles and it seems now that you don’t know where it’s going to end,” Harris admitted.
“But I hope that this will serve as a lesson for the people who are still current. These people saw a chance to enrich themselves using corrupt practices connected to football and now they will have to pay the price. It seems to me the more people that are arrested, the more you hear of other names.”
Despite the several CONCACAF and CONMEBOL officials indicted today, Harris said he still believed the region would recover from the latest scandal.
With the BFA being a member of the region’s governing body however, he blatantly dismissed the idea that CONCACAF was corrupt.
“Football overall in the region is going to stay steady and hopefully we will make some good choices in the future and keep CONCACAF moving forward as it should.
“While it is clear that they are officials who are corrupt, as a member of CONCACAF I can’t say that the body is corrupt. There are corrupt officials all over the world, not just in CONCACAF, so it all boils down to the individual and not the organization,” Harris insisted.
In light of today’s developments, US Soccer sought todistance itself from CONCACAF and CONMEBOL’s alleged corruption, by issuing a statement reiterating that it is committed to a transparent process for the 2016 Copa America Centenario, slated to be held in the United States.
According to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch,the defendants acted to solicit and receive more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks since 1991 to sell media and marketing rights.