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FIFA persists

Barry Alleyne and Justin Marville

FIFA persists

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FIFA’S big bribery scandal simply won’t go away.
The sport’s world governing body has started an official investigation involving 16 Caribbean officials who attended a Caribbean Football Union (CFU) meeting in Trinidad in May to which FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam ­– since banned by FIFA for involvement in a votes-for-bribery scandal – was invited.
Barbados football officials David Hinds and Mark “Bob” Forde are among the 16.
FIFA revealed the list yesterday, the day after another senior Bajan official, Lisle Austin, was banned from the sport for a year.
Hinds, the general secretary of the Barbados Football Association (BFA), and Forde, a long-serving FIFA international referee, are being investigated by FIFA’s ethics committee as Barbados’ representatives at the CFU meeting in Trinidad.
It is alleged that officials were offered US$40 000 at the meeting to support then Asia soccer chief bin Hamman in his bid to unseat long-serving FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
“It is important to note the investigations are still ongoing, and that it is therefore possible that further proceedings could be opened in the future,” said FIFA in a press statement.
BFA president Ronald Jones was quick to come to his officials’ defence yesterday.
“The BFA is fully supportive of its two members who maintain their position of innocence and welcome the opportunity to state their case and move past this dark chapter of Caribbean football,” stated Jones in a media release yesterday.
“It is important to note that none of these two men have been charged with anything but asked to appear before the FIFA ethics committee to give sworn testimony.”
The investigation is the latest fallout of the bribery scandal which resulted in bin Hamman’s life ban and the resignation of former CONCACAF boss Austin “Jack” Warner.
A long-serving FIFA vice-president, Warner  resigned two months ago instead of facing possible FIFA sanctions.
But FIFA called former FBI director Louis Freeh to conduct an initial investigation into the bribery scandal after federations from the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, and the Turks and Caicos originally blew the whistle on bin Hamman.
Aruba, Curacao, Grenada, Suriname and Puerto Rico then corroborated those statements in Freeh’s questioning.
However, Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana, most notably, have denied even knowing of the payments offered or the brown paper bags they were allegedly presented in.
The remaining members of the CFU were asked to meet Freeh in Bahamas or Miami for further investigations but all stood by their original denials over their involvement in the scandal.
Both Hinds and Forde declined to go to the meeting with Freeh, reasoning that they were given the option to have the questioning conducted here in Barbados.