Webb could help 'trap' culprits

Jeffrey Webb, who was deputy chairman of Fifa’s internal audit committee for a decade, could shed light on financial transactions signed off by outgoing Fifa chief Sepp Blatter.
Jeffrey Webb, who was deputy chairman of Fifa’s internal audit committee for a decade, could shed light on financial transactions signed off by outgoing Fifa chief Sepp Blatter. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

US prosecutors may tap on what he knows to file charges against top football officials

NEW YORK • Jeffrey Webb, the arrested football official who was transferred this week to the United States, might be a key asset to prosecutors weighing whether to build cases against others, including Sepp Blatter, the outgoing president of Fifa.

Webb is among nine officials at Fifa, football's governing body, and five marketing executives who have been charged in a racketeering and bribery indictment by the US authorities.

The 50-year-old, a suspended Fifa vice-president, allegedly took millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks for media rights to football tournaments.

He agreed last week to be extradited and could plead guilty and help the investigators in a bid for leniency at sentencing.

If so, he might provide a road map to the inner workings of Fifa and his dealings with Blatter, who has not been charged yet.

Webb was also close to Jack Warner who was a former president of football's governing body for North America, Central America and the Caribbean (Concacaf).

"If there was an opportunity to cooperate, this is the time to do it," said Jeff Neiman, a former US federal prosecutor who is not involved in the case.

"By getting to the United States quickly, he's positioned himself well if it's his desire to cooperate."

Given Webb's position, Neiman added, "he undoubtedly has knowledge about those he played ball with at Fifa and Concacaf".

A former Cayman Islands banker, Webb became a favourite of Blatter who suggested he would be an ideal successor at Fifa.

As the deputy chairman of Fifa's internal audit committee for a decade, Webb may have details of financial transactions signed off by Blatter and sent to the football officials implicated in the scandal.

Warner quit amid a corruption scandal in 2012 and is among those indicted, accused of taking bribes for media rights.

Prosecutors said Webb took up where Warner left off, cashing in on the lucrative television rights that Concacaf controlled.

The pressure on Warner, a Trinidad resident, is building from those who are close to him.

His two sons have pleaded guilty, as has Charles Blazer, 70, who was Concacaf's former general secretary. All of them are cooperating with the prosecutors.

Webb also served a decade ago as the director of a Cayman company that Warner controlled, court records show.

The latter last month publicly promised an avalanche of revelations about Fifa corruption.

Instead, facing extradition, he posted a rambling video online, saying that he had placed files with attorneys in multiple countries that contain details that will compromise Blatter.

Asked to elaborate on those allegations, Warner responded in an e-mail: "If and when I decide to disseminate any further information, you will be advised."

Neiman said Webb may have concluded that being in jail in Switzerland is more difficult than being out on bail in the US.

"If he were to cooperate, it's logistically harder to do outside the United States," the American added.

"You can't have it both ways in fighting extradition and cooperating."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2015, with the headline 'WEBB COULD HELP 'TRAP' CULPRITS'. Print Edition | Subscribe