Thu | Oct 19, 2017

Where is Jamaica’s Department of Justice?

Published:Friday | June 5, 2015 | 12:16 AM

Here's the problem facing the voter with a conscience: Do you support the candidate who has spent money on you, who has given you clear benefits, and who has promised even more if he wins again, but who has a dark side, who associates with people accused of passing money under the table in back rooms? Or do you vote for the one who promises transparency, an end to bribery and corruption, and to clean up the system?

No, I am not talking about Jamaican general elections (I couldn't be because neither party is promising to clean up Jamaica's dirty politics); I'm referring to the current scandals surrounding the body regulating the sport of football globally.

According to the BBC, "Former top FIFA official Chuck Blazer has admitted that he and others on the executive committee agreed to accept bribes in connection with the choice of South Africa as 2010 World Cup hosts."

Chuck Blazer was CONCACAF general secretary from 1990-2011; Jack Warner was CONCACAF president from 1990-2011.

According to the Guardian newspaper, the US indictment against FIFA officials states that "a high-ranking FIFA official caused payments ... totalling $10m to be wired from a FIFA account in Switzerland to a Bank of America correspondent account in New York ... controlled by Jack Warner".

South Africa denied it bribed FIFA officials with US$10m to secure votes for its successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup, insisting the payment was "above board". Fikile Mbalula, South African sports minister, confirmed US$10m was paid to the former FIFA official Jack Warner in 2008 but insisted it was not a bribe, as US prosecutors allege. It was given as an "above-board" donation to support the building of a football centre for people in the African diaspora in the Caribbean.

So it was paid, but it was not a bribe; it was a gift - a donation.

 

sharing the proceeds

 

What happened to this US$10 million? Was it paid into a personal account of Jack Warner, or was it paid into a CONCACAF or CFU account? Was a football centre built, or was the money divided between the CONCACAF national federations to build many football centres? Or was the money divided up between CONCACAF officials?

Does the Jamaica Football Federation know anything about this donation? Did Jamaica receive any of this money? These are all important questions that the Jamaican football authorities need to answer.

Last Wednesday, the United States Justice Department unsealed a 47-count indictment charging a number of CONCACAF officials, including Jack Warner, and current CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb. Chuck Blazer has already pleaded guilty and has turned state witness.

So, in the face of all of this, how should an upright person who wants to do the right thing vote if he were a delegate to the 61st FIFA Congress?

I don't know how the Jamaican representative voted at the FIFA congress last week, but if he voted for the incumbent, he now has egg on his face, for within four days, Sepp Blatter officially announced his resignation. I would have wanted Jamaica's delegation to vote for the man who promised transparency and a house-cleaning.

But isn't this the Jamaican voter with a conscience placed in an even worse dilemma, for both the People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party operate garrison constituencies; both are associated with armed political thugs; both have received political donations from questionable sources; and neither wants transparency in political financing. Can a decent Jamaican cast a vote with a clear conscience?

 

great disservice

 

We know that fewer and fewer voters are turning out on election day. Some call it voter apathy, but I think they do a great disservice to Jamaican conscience voters, many of whom simply cannot bring themselves to vote for either of these heavily tainted parties.

Maybe the USA is peeved that it did not win its bid to host the World Cup, and so it has gone after those who it believes may have corrupted the process. But its perceived peeve does not discredit the indictment. It makes me wonder why the US Justice Department can prosecute bribery and corruption in high places, but we cannot do the same.

Part of it is that we do not have the laws to facilitate it. Do people break Jamaican law when they pass corrupt money through Jamaican banks? Nepotism and conflict of interest are not criminal offences in Jamaica, nor are breaches of the Government's procurement guidelines.

Is it an offence for a Jamaican or a Jamaican organisation to benefit from funds obtained corruptly? Is it an offence for a politician to receive a 'gift' or a 'donation' and then place legislation before Parliament that benefits the donor?

The foxes are guarding the henhouse.

- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and Roman Catholic deacon. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.