The top lawyer for the body that oversees soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean said auditors found discrepancies in the group’s finances.
John Collins, the legal counsel of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, said former general secretary Chuck Blazer failed to correctly report tax for at least four years, and ex-president Jack Warner registered a $22.5 million soccer center in his own name.
The Bahamas-registered governing body, known as Concacaf, is meeting today before world ruling body FIFA’s annual congress. Warner quit soccer last June after more than two decades of involvement. A probe into his alleged role in bribing voters ahead of FIFA’s presidential election wasn’t concluded. He’s currently acting prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago. Blazer, an American who is on FIFA’s executive board, quit as general secretary in December.
“I am shell-shocked, dismayed and upset,” said Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands, who took over today as Concacaf president from Warner. “This should not happen in this day and age. We must decide that it does not happen again.”
Members at the Concacaf meeting are asking FIFA to allow a motion proposing the removal of Blazer from his post during its annual meeting in Budapest in two days. Blazer’s term with FIFA’s board ends in mid-2013. He was involved with the regional group for 21 years.
“I presided over extraordinary growth and development,” Blazer said in a text message. “A closer look will show that the president’s office and his personal accountant were responsible for the elements that have delayed” an audit.
Blazer denied the allegations. He said he would meet with Concacaf officials, adding that it is “imperative.”
Warner didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
Collins said Blazer, who lives in Trump Towers in New York, where Concacaf has offices, has started legal proceedings against the soccer body, saying he’s owed commissions for marketing agreements.
He also revealed that the Joao Havelange Center of Excellence, a soccer center funded by FIFA and Concacaf, had been registered as being owned by two companies owned by Warner, not the soccer federation. In 2007 Warner took out a mortgage on the soccer center without authority.
Collins said the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is also investigating Concacaf because it’s headquartered there. He said the IRS became involved after Concacaf reported potential liabilities.
Concacaf makes most of its money in the U.S. and has to file a return there even though it’s a non-profit organization. Collins said tax filings had never been made in the country.
“We are going to have to pay very steep penalties because we didn’t pay our taxes properly,” said Pedro Chaluja, president of the Panamanian soccer federation.
Officials said they were angry that they had not been told before about the financial issues.
“You are sitting on a bomb,” Cuba soccer executive Luis Hernandez told Concacaf president Webb.