The FIFA Ethics Committee will begin deliberations today in Zurich aimed squarely at those members of the Caribbean Football Union who still maintain that they didn't get a dime of Bin Hammams' money on May 10.
It reminds one of the part near the end of The Lord of the Rings - the J.R. R. Tolkien book, not the interminable cinematic abortion that made Peter Jackson an undeservedly wealthy man - when there's a moment after the ring has been melted into goo and Saurons' power has been broken when most of his army suddenly finds itself freed from the thrall in which it had been held and, seeing a bunch of guys with bigass swords getting ready to gut them like so many carp, they turn and run away.
All except a small number who, Tolkien tells us, had been under Saurons' control for so long that they were unable to see any other possibility. Cheerfully, this remnant of Sauron loyalists is forthwith slaughtered like so many cattle.
Now I'm a far cry from the most well-read guy around but as literary allusions go I think you'd have to do a good bit of searching to find a better analogy to what's going on within the CFU these days.
You'll recall a few weeks back when, during the surprisingly brief media conference FIFA held to announce the Ethics Committee findings re: Bin Hammam, Blazer & the Trinidadian minnows, Justice Damaseb remarked that the committee had asked the General Secretary to authorize them to investigate the actions of "other parties" involved in the now legendary Port of Spain Bribe-O-Rama.
That was on a Friday, July 23. The following Monday, FIFA sent letters to 15 Caribbean Football Union federations, giving each of them 48 hours to come clean about their actions during the Bin Hammam visit. They were advised that while they are all now considered more or less guilty, those officials who took this last chance to come forward would receive a lesser punishment than those who continue to stonewall the committee.
(How this differs from what Blazer told them all in that CONCACAF meeting on May 31 when he said they were all "under investigation" escapes me. It appears that all he was doing was telling them the truth. The Ethics Committee found that he was wrong to say so, but now the same committee has announced that not only are they indeed under investigation but, in fact, they've already been found guilty.)
Lifetime bans have been promised for those found guilty of lying about what took place, and there are a bunch of guys who ought to be worried as the deliberations begin this morning.
You'll recall that most of the 15 recalcitrant CFU members refused to meet with Freehs' people in Miami, but that after they agreed to do interviews in the Bahamas acting CFU President Captain Horace Burrell of Jamaica, himself not beyond suspicion in all of this and trying desperately to stay in FIFAs' good graces, instructed everyone to cooperate.
Surprisingly two federations still refused - nobody seems to know exactly who although Antigua and T&T are good bets - but everyone else sat down and gave the investigators various versions on the same theme: "nobody gave us nothin'."
Burrell himself likely retold the same story he gave his local media when he said: "Let me state categorically that the JFF was not offered neither received any funds prior to, during or after the reference CFU meeting held May 10-11 in Trinidad."
Alleged human being Patrick John of Domenica has been quoted as saying: “I am a supporter of Blatter. Dominica was excluded from that (bribery). I am not sure if the other associations received money to vote.” while Franka Pickering, President of the British Virgin Islands fed, has repeatedly claimed that she saw and heard nothing at all about any money being passed around and has no idea what any of this is about.
Slightly more creative is the line taken by Carlos Prowell of Guyana, who says his delegation heard the announcement that everyone was supposed to go pick up their "gifts" and they chose not "to be part and parcel of what was happening; it was a collective decision. Guyana did not receive any money and to the best of my knowledge no money was offered.”
Of course the entire question would be rendered moot if the two CFU officials who handed out the envelopes were willing to testify, but as more and more feds come clean it has become tougher and tougher for any of these guys to claim innocence simply because the pool of witnesses willing to talk has grown from five to nine to perhaps as many as 12 or 14 today.
For a while now it's been perfectly plausible for them to tell their local media that they don't know anything about any money, but when the President of Federation A tells the committee that he stood in line behind you, watched you go into the meeting room and then saw you come out five minutes later carrying a fat 8 1/2 X 11 envelope, your goose is cooked.
By the same token, in addition to the public and principled stand taken by Anton Sealey and Fred Lunn of the Bahamas, there's the lesser known but equally damaging story of the Bermuda delegation as stated in a deposition given to the Ethics committee by the President of the Bermuda Fed, Larry Mussenden.
Mussenden, who is also a former Bermuda Attorney General and the Chairman of FIFAs' appeals committee was, like Sealey, in Zurich at the time of the Bin Hammam meeting, so he sent his General Secretary, David Sabir to Port of Spain.
When Sabir realized what was going on he, like Fred Lunn, phoned his boss and asked what he should do. Mussenden, who is not surprisingly extremely conversant with FIFA rules, told him that cash gifts are not permissible under any circumstances and that they would only accept money by wire transfer.
(Mussenden, as a material witness, has recused himself from the upcoming deliberations on Bin Hammams' appeal.)
Caracaos' Rignall Francisca says he told them the same thing: if you want to give us money, send it by regular means, not via plain brown wrapper.
Others have apparently taken the line chosen by Surinams' Louis Giskus, who told the committe that he initially took the cash, thinking it "a nice gift" but later determined that it was illegal. Like Puerto Rico, they put the money into escrow and are still awaiting FIFA's instructions.
At the time of the Bin Hammam hearings, there were nine feds who told the committee that money was offered and fifteen "deniers" (to borrow a term).
Reportedly "several" more feds decided to take advantage of the 48 hour window to come clean with the committee, saving themselves from the lifetime ban which surely awaits those who continue to offer fairy tales.
Which leaves a number of guys in tough spots, perhaps none tougher than Burrell, who has already stated that he intends to stand for President of CONCACAF, something which is likely to be much more complicated if the Ethics Committee hands him a lifetime red card.
But if he decides to save his own ass and come clean, that will mean giving up his BFF Jack, something which he is understandably loathe to do.
Some other guys - notably John, Ronald Jones of Barbados (Lisle Austins' home boy) Oliver Camps of T&T (Jacks' personal flunky) and Chet Greene of Antigua & Barbuda - are in similar spots. Unpopular at home, they only hold their current positions because Warner strongarmed their voters with threats of loss of funds and none of them can last long without Jacks' Big Stick behind them.
One thing is certain: FIFA fully intends to declare a footballing death sentence on all and sundry who they feel is not telling the truth.
In the last few days, Bin Hammam has been complaining to reporters that FIFA has still not released the full Ethics Committe report which resulted in his ban. He's implying - and a number of idiot writers are choosing to believe it - that FIFA is hiding the results because there's no actual proof of anything.
Nobody really knows for sure but an alternative - and far more likely - conclusion is that they're holding on to the information so that CFU officials don't know what they really have on them.
One thing is certain: at least a few CFU member federations are going to need to schedule new elections really soon. FIFA is in no mood to be jerked around.