Caribbean federations to avoid FIFA hearings

DETROIT - The majority of Caribbean football federations will not attend planned questioning with FIFA's bribery investigators, a source told Reuters on Tuesday.

FIFA's investigating team, which includes ex-FBI head Louis Freeh's company, were due in Miami on Tuesday to conduct interviews with the Caribbean federations who had been invited to attend.

But a Caribbean football source said that close to 20 of the 25 federations in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) had opted not to show up for the interviews which are also scheduled for Wednesday.

"They intend to have a meeting of their own soon to discuss the situation," said the source, who declined to be named.

A FIFA spokesman declined to discuss details of the meeting or attendance in Miami.

"As you may understand and in order not to compromise the efficiency of the investigation, FIFA cannot provide details of the investigation or comment on it while it is ongoing," he said.

Three CFU officials, president Jack Warner and staff members Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester, have been provisionally suspended by FIFA's Ethics Committee pending a full inquiry into bribery allegations surrounding a meeting in the Caribbean with Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam.

Some Caribbean federations, including the Bahamas and Puerto Rican bodies, have told FIFA they were offered money at the meeting.

LETTER SENT

The decision to not attend the interviews in Miami comes after a letter was sent by one Caribbean federation to FIFA president Sepp Blatter urging him to remove Freeh from the investigation.

"The investigation is tainted and biased and clearly has a U.S. driven agenda," a federation official wrote in a letter to FIFA seen by Reuters.

The report to FIFA's Ethics Committee was initiated by American Chuck Blazer, general secretary of CONCACAF, the regional body for football in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Blazer worked with Chicago-based lawyer John Collins on the dossier and with an American now leading the investigation and with the interviews being held in Florida, Blatter was asked to intervene.

The letter asked Blatter, who is not a member of the Ethics Committee, to replace Freeh with a "truly independent investigator and secure a neutral venue for the interview of any Caribbean Football Union member other than the United States of America."

But Blazer rejected accusations the investigation was biased or was being conducted according to a U.S. driven agenda.

"It is nonsense. For 21 years their confederation has been administered from America without any claims of bias," Blazer told Reuters by email.

"I find it uniquely peculiar for that charge to be made now other than as a tactic to interfere with the ethics investigation which is being managed solely by the members of the FIFA Ethics Committee."

FIFA said it had not made any changes to the make-up of the investigation and confirmed that Freeh's organisation had been hired.

Qatari Bin Hammam, who was running against Blatter for FIFA president at the time of the meeting, has also been suspended following the bribery allegations. He also has insisted he did nothing wrong.