Just days before its Gold Cup kicks off on June 5, CONCACAF has been struck by controversy after its president, Jack Warner, was suspended by FIFA on Sunday following bribery allegations.
FIFA's five-man ethics panel will investigate whether Warner and Mohamed bin Hammam — who heads the Asian Football Confederation and was also suspended — offered cash gifts of $40,000 apiece to as many as two dozen executives during a Caribbean football association conference on May 11-12 in Trinidad. The bribes were allegedly made to secure votes for bin Hammam's FIFA presidency bid.
The charges were revealed on Sunday after the panel reviewed evidence complied by American FIFA executive Chuck Blazer, who is also secretary general of CONCACAF.
“We are satisfied that there is a case to be answered,” Petrus Damaseb, deputy chairman of FIFA’s executive committee, told reporters in Zurich on Sunday.
The panel also suspended Caribbean Football Union executives Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester.
If Warner and bin Hammam are found guilty of paying bribes, FIFA could hand them lifetime bans from engaging in any professional soccer-related activities, according to multiple reports.
Bin Hammam's opponent in the presidential race, current FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, has been cleared of any wrongdoings by the panel. Bin Hammam had asked the executive committee to investigate Blatter, claiming the FIFA president was aware of the cash gifts but chose to ignore them. However, the committee said it found no evidence sufficient enough to take action against Blatter.
Bin Hammam, who successfully helped secure the 2022 World Cup for his home country of Qatar, had withdrawn from the presidential race on Saturday leaving Blatter unopposed for Wednesday's vote.
According to British newspaper the Guardian, FIFA general secretary Jérôme Valcke would not comment on whether the committee would also investigate the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The United States staged an unsuccessful bid to host that tournament.
"It was not discussed by the committee," Valcke said.
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