The FIFA Ethics Committee investigators are setting up shop in Miami for three days, beginning today, in order to interview CFU officials and federation members who attended the infamous Port-of-Spain Bribe-O-Rama" on May 10 & 11.
Sky Sports has obtained a copy of a letter (forwarded by BigSoccer maven patricksb) which was sent to each of the 25 CFU member federations, WHICH MAKES IT QUITE CLEAR that attendance is not, as they say, optional.
After assuring them that FIFA will cover all the expenses involved, the letter gets pretty blunt:
"Although you are under no obligation to attend such a meeting, please be advised that the FIFA Ethics Committee may draw negative inference in the event that you (i) do not make the arrangements sought herein, or (ii) do not attend the meeting as requested."
In other words, this ain't a US courtroom, pal. The jury may draw whatever conclusion they like based on your refusal to show up.
And they're in no mood to be generous.
It goes on to remind the addressees that, as officials of FIFA sanctioned entities, the rules state - as they do with ExCo members, which is how this whole thing got started - that they have a "duty of disclosure and reporting" which includes "providing any evidence requested for inspection."
In response, the CFU has called an "emergency meeting" to discuss what to do next.
Some people might opine that their options are pretty limited, but nevertheless a reported "majority" of CFU federations are refusing to present themselves for questioning.
Apparently these guys didn't see Justice Damaseb the other day. Does he seem like a guy you want to thumb your nose at?
Adding to the tension is a response written by an unidentified CFU member which rips into the investigation, saying it is "tainted and biased and clearly has a US-driven agenda". and accusing FIFA of "scaring and intimidating" the Caribbean fed members.
Describing the investigation as a "conspiracy" directed by the US, the letter notes that the Chief Investigator, Louis Freeh, is "a "a former director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigations" who "served under the Bill Clinton Administration" and goes on to note that Clinton was "an integral component of the unsuccessful US 2022 World Cup bid."
The letter continues:
"...the facts presented above depict two American complainants, an American investigator, an investigation and an interrogation being conducted on American soil while Fifa remains a Swiss-registered entity and none of the persons under investigation being US citizens."
"To what end, one must wonder, is the US featuring so prominently in this entire elaborate scheme?"
Which is of course the pertinent question.
While blaming the US - never mentioning the USSF of course, just "the US" - is a time-honored and still popular all-purpose method of rallying support for yourself, they don't seem to have any particular motive they can think of beyond a) general American mean and nastiness and b) revenge for Qatar getting the World Cup.
Which may make some kind of sense to them - claiming that "the US" is punishing the CFU and Jack Warner (who likely voted for the US bid) for the actions of the ExCo - but makes little rational sense in the real world, which is probably one reason why they'd prefer not to relate it to Louis Freeeh.
The other reason of course is that they're pretty much over a barrel here, having two choices:
1) Go to Miami and lie to FIFA thereby pissing them off, or
2) Stay at home and piss FIFA off anyway
Of course there's a third option, namely going to Miami and throwing yourself on the mercy of the Ethics Committee, which - in the best traditions of law enforcement - might very well be in a mood to forgive the minnows in order to nail the sharks.We'd all love to know who the countries are who have agreed to attend and maybe that information will leak out.
For the moment, it's probably safe to assume that the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Puerto Rico - which just sent FIFA a check for $40,000 as repayment of the money - will be there, at least.
(Of course this whole thing could be cleared up by the weekend if the investigators could talk to the two CFU officials who handed out the money. "Who gave it to you?" and "What were your instructions?" would pretty much end the drama.
But of course they not only refused and invitation to go to Zurich, they also refused to testify by phone. Warner will find other jobs for them someplace and they'll never be heard from again.)
In the meantime, whatever Jack Warner is telling them behind closed doors, this is a fools' game:
Sepp Blatter and FIFA are under the gun to nail someones' hide to the wall. Maybe a lot of someones.
And whether it's fair or not, whether they like it or not, they're the guys in line to take the hit. Complain all you want about a US conspiracy (apparently Sunil Gulati is a lot more devious than he looks), but someone is going down and all this bluster and noise will accomplish is to make sure it's them.
FIFA can get by pretty well without the CFU for a while. and if that's their bluff here, they're dumber than we thought.