CIFA accounts reveal fraud allegations

| 18/03/2019 | 55 Comments
Cayman News Service

CIFA headquarters, Grand Cayman

(CNS): An audit of the Cayman Islands Football Association by Grant Thornton has revealed some details of the alleged fraud perpetrated against the local football body by former executives. In one of three audits of CIFA’s books, which the current president recently said would not be made public, former CIFA president Jeffrey Webb and his one time business associate and CIFA treasurer, Canover Watson, are identified as the suspects in the crime.

Despite CIFA’s desire to keep the records under wraps, they have been leaked and indicate that the fraud relates to funding for the Centre of Excellence and unsecured loans.

The audits do not, however, paint a full picture of how the alleged fraud took place, how it was perpetrated without others in the association being aware, any of the consequences of the fraud or what new measures have been implemented to prevent any recurrence.

The accounts only give a snapshot of the allegations, and although Watson and former CIFA vice-president Bruce Blake were arrested in relation to this fraud by the Anti-Corruption Commission in the summer of 2017 and a third unidentified man was arrested in June last year, no charges have ever been brought. The case currently seems to be on the ACC’s back-burner, with no movement on what appears to be a significant fraud.

Meanwhile, it is understood that Blake, who has always denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the fraud, has returned to the CIFA’s executive committee after his suspension following his arrest.

In the 2015 audit, which refers to the fraud, the auditors disclaimed the accounts and noted that the issue had resulted in significant losses to CIFA. It said the association had cooperated with investigators as well as forensic accountants but that there may still be elements of the fraud that were not yet uncovered.

The auditors said that in addition to the issues relating to the fraud surrounding the GOAL funding that came from FIFA for the pitch and buildings at the Centre of Excellence, they could not account for expenses of almost CI$165,000 and revenues of almost CI$250,000. The auditors said the former executives accused of the fraud had entered into loan deals with fraudulent companies owned by Webb and Watson.

While the accounts give no indication of the correlation with the crimes Webb has admitted to regarding the massive global FIFA corruption scandal, it is understood that some of the money Webb took in bribes as VP of the global football body was used to fund the loans to CIFA. The case against Watson and Webb regarding the near $11 million hospital Carepay scam also revealed allegations of fraud relating to cash connected to CIFA projects.

In addition to the unresolved criminal allegations in the audit, the accountants noted that CIFA has defaulted on a loan of some CI$470,000, which was originally taken out with Fidelity bank and is secured by land owned by CIFA and guarantees by previous executives. Before Webb became CONCACAF president, he was an employee of Fidelity. According to the accounts, that loan is still in default with no payments being made up to the end of 2017.

Despite the questions surrounding CIFA’s books and the unsolved fraud case, the current president, Alfredo Whittaker, has revealed that the funding from FIFA, which has been frozen for almost five years, will resume this year. CIFA is now likely to receive as much as CI$5 million to spend on local football.

Speaking to Cayman 27 last week, he said the money was “right around the corner”, as CIFA has now completed all of the requirements.

“We had a couple of visits from FIFA and they were quite impressed with what had been done and what we had in place,” he said. Whittaker said the money would be used to establish a number of mandatory committees and some improvements at the head office, as well as women’s football.

“We could build another field, put lights at CIFA Field. We could assist the clubs even more for them to become more successful… Women’s football is one of my biggest goals,” he said because getting more girls involved in the game was the “big project”.

At a recent general meeting, despite the lack of resolution, Whittaker also told CIFA members that all of the troubles were over and the association was moving on.

However, it is still not clear if the current government will resume local funding after the former sports minister, Osborne Bodden, suspended the public grant in 2015 as a result of the concerns over the financial irregularities and personnel troubles in the executive after Webb’s arrest.

CNS has acquired copies of the CIFA audits from 2014 to 2017. We have posted the most pertinent in the CNS library here, and will add the others later. 

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Category: Local News

Comments (55)

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  1. Ambassador of Absurdistan says:

    Just Another Day in Absurdistan

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  2. kenny says:

    I am wondering why this story came up again after FIFA announce that they going to resume funding to CIFA, why continue to put football in the dark when we already know that there was wrong done during Jeff administration. If its proven that money given by Cayman Government was used for personal gain then CI Government will/ should intervene. As for money given to CIFA by FIFA . ONLY FIFA can do something about it, and whoever think or act upon then only risk Cayman Island being ban form FIFA.
    I can also tell you that if you think a grant of 50 gran from government is anything much then you don’t know anything about football.
    Please note I am not condoning the things Jeff did because if he was more transparent in the running of the football the association would not be in this position

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    • Anonymous says:

      The fact that you are trying to pin this all on #crookedjeff, likely means you are complicit. Identify yourself, I dare you.

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      • kenny says:

        what identifying myself have to do with what I wrote, it simple the god in heaven truth, and beside that’s my name it’s not anonymous!!!. I am here for the people that love the game of football period!
        I say to you and Mr Chris Johnson if you have the game at heart please please try make positive contribution for the sake of our young Caymanian who plays the game, its time to rebuild not continue tear down the association just for self interest.
        Making these type of constant negative report in the media won’t help.
        Make your findings to FIFA if you want to help football in Cayman!!!

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        • Anonymous says:

          When you are repairing a house you have to remove and replace all of the termite infested wood. You seem to think that is OK to just slap some paint on the remaining CIFA wood that only has a few termites and hope that nobody will notice.

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        • Chris Johnson says:

          Kenny

          Clearly you did not read my blogs. As I said I offered the services of my firm and two colleagues to investigate the fraud perpetrated on CIFA.

          My offer received no response. So an accounting firm was employed where the fees exceeded $100,000.

          I played football here for many years as well as other sports. I contributed to all of them one way or the other.

          You have no balls( excuse the pun) to even identify yourself.

          What may I ask what have you done to assist CIFA?

          Check the moat in your eye before criticizing others.

          • Kenny says:

            You also may need to read my comment, as I said if you want to help the association and your findings of fraud your best course of action should report to FIFA, and not the media.

            You said you contributed to the game of football by playing, well sir I have done more than that and will if call upon for my service again from working with under 14 youth to the senior team.

            My point to you sir and all those that want to see someone fail/fall is to try and lets rebuild the association and stop tearing it down for personal interest or have something against someone, and understand the FIFA rules regarding football associations and Government interference.
            Again I say if you have something regarding fraud take it to FIFA and stop the foolishness .

            • Chris Johnson says:

              Kenny you really have no idea and should refrain from critizing me when you do not have the background of my efforts to assist CIFA.

              I reached out to several past and present directors. I worked wit the the Minister of Sports and I met with the overall Caribbean and North American body in Canovers office. I reached out to members of FIFA. I got no help apart from the Government and some past directors of CIFA.

              What did you do?

              I spent one hundred hours investigating the fraud and liaised with the anti corruption squad to try and resolve the issues.

              What did you do?

              You did a bit of coaching. Wow brilliant. Oh I forgot to mention my coaching at the catholic school many years ago.

              Of course had you bothered to find out what I have done to support sport and the community in the Cayman Islands you could have read the blog above. It is not something I brag about. I need no kudos, I am just proud to put something back into the community.

              I believe this closes this issue but at least the populace know who I am. I do not hide behind closed doors like yourself.

              Carpe Diem

        • Anonymous says:

          I suggest you leave Mr Johnson out of this. He has made significant contributions to tennis, football, cricket, field hockey, rugby, diving, table tennis, darts . He was president of many of these associations and clubs and continues to support them.

          May I suggest you do something positive. Judging by your thumbs down you are not too popular. Do you sit on the CIFA board?

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          • Kenny says:

            Sorry I never knew this is a popularity contest and who is in agreement.
            This is why anyone who read understand FIFA laws would agree with me.
            I have given a lot back to society more that what you would imagine but yet still I don’t go around advertising what I did, its just the love for future young Caymanian and not for queen honor.

            My question to you and your followers what Is your contribution to football to make it good again in Cayman Island instead of feeding off this negative social media stuff.

            For the record I never work on the board of CIFA. My suggestion to Mr Johnson was to guide him to where he could have had his findings of the association wrong doing to FIFA.
            For someone you said work on various board he should have know the channel of how this work!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Chris Johnson was right along. It seemed like no one wanted to listen to him.

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    • Chris Johnson says:

      For the record I offered my services with two highly qualified forensic accountants to assist the previous chairman of CIFA. We met in my office over two years ago. We offered to do the work for no cost. We never heard back from anyone.

      Over three years ago following a large investigation without any assistance from CIFA I handed my files to the anti corruption unit. I never heard back.

      I also prepared a detailed report for the Compass who found it not newsworthy! This was after I did a FOI to obtain information that no one has done since. Only today has the Compass spoken out, yet they actually know nothing of consequence.

      I am perplexed why the powers that be ignored my assistance. However to be fair to the Minister of Sport at that time, Ossie Bodden, did his very best to get me and my colleagues involved only to be frustrated at the lack of law to support his intentions.

      All this reminds me of the Norman Wisdom movie and his perennial phrase ‘ God helps those that help themselves’

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  4. Anonymous says:

    CNS: Someone told me that Alfredo Whittaker, the current President of CIFA, had been sanctioned and banned/suspended by CIFA (not sure for how many years) while he was president of the CI Referees Association.

    Is there any way that you can find out if this is true, and what was the reason for his suspension? If true, this might explain a lot of things.

    CNS: We found this on a referees’ blog from 2015, which indicated that he had been removed by FIFA from their Referees Committee, but it doesn’t give an indication as to why. We don’t know about the CIFA committee and whether he was suspended or not. Perhaps one of our readers might know more.

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    • Anonymous says:

      stealing time again bobo

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      • Anonymous says:

        The story that I heard was that CIFA gave him a cheque to pay ALL referees, and none of them were paid. Hopefully one of the old referees could state what happened if Alfredo isn’t willing to speak on the subject.

  5. Junior says:

    stealing? Nahhhhhhhh not on this god fearing island surely not?

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  6. Michael J. Garcia-Ebanks says:

    There cannot be a conversation about CIFA and the Webb glory years without understanding the power Webb held over the UDP and PPM particularly after becoming the head of CONCACAF and FIFA Vice President. It is too simple to blame Webb’s leadership alone. How can the discussion exclude former minister of sports and CIFA executive committee member Mark Scotland and the entire committee members? Webb led a group of board members and politicians completely loyal to him and his ideas were supported by the CIFA board members, politically connected persons and elected politicians. Follow the money.

    Politicians from UDP and PPM traveled the globe and directly benefitted from contracts and business opportunities afforded to them by President Webb.
    PPM’s Moses Kirkconnell as minister of tourism interests benefitted from tournaments held in Cayman Brac as he basked in the glory of economic boom provided by CONCACAF at the direction of Webb just like the UDP faithful that received lucrative contracts for football related services.

    Many piglets fed at the trough provided by President Webb. He was one of the most powerful people in Cayman politics during his 20 years as CIFA President. It is incredible that the story is being spun by auditors, including Grant Thornton and Rankin Berkower, that Webb and his partner pulled off these scams alone. They were helped and facilitated by many persons in the system that were rewarded for being complicit and loyal to Webb. This includes elected and unelected individuals who got their share and kick backs from Webb and CIFA.

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    • Chris Johnson says:

      Well done. Someone had to say it. This matter must not be swept under the carpet. Please note the ACC.

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    • Chris Johnson says:

      The phase Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes immediately springs to mind.

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      • Michael J. Garcia-Ebanks says:

        This criminal enterprise at cifa over many years included all committee members who failed the teams and sport, it includes former and current politicians, powerful businessmen, high powered attorneys, accountants and cifa’s own paid auditors who all allegedly played key roles in the the crimes being committed and actively engaging in the cover up that continues today.

        How can the lawyers and accountants providing professional services and auditors who signed off on the annual accounts for many years maintain their practicing licenses when it seems clear they aided and abetted the breach of trust and numerous financial crimes?

        Time for the ACC to demonstrate they are willing to cast and wide net and go after all the big fish involved in these unlawful events. This net must include top players including cifa’s auditor Philip Rankin who must explain his role in these events over several years. Failure to do so by the ACC makes it clear that political connections and protection is greater than the ACC laws.

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      • Anonymous says:

        In Cayman it is important to understand in every decision made “Who watches the watchmen” especially if they are all related and have brotherly or quasi-parental ties.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Webb and Watson have been disgraced already and are being thrown to the public as some sort of transparency offering. We need the names of the rest even if one may have been ministry of sports and health during CIFA and CarePay scandals.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Anyone out there surprised by this? The Centre of Excellence project, which I remember being launched by Jeff Webb in 2007, was a scam almost from day one. It’s like the pitch upgrades to meet FIFA standards. Someone clearly made a lot of money out of that but was it all necessary?

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  8. Anonymous says:

    So what else is new?

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Private sector mismanagement again.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Is Philip Rankin related to Eldon Rankin and Jeff Webb?

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  11. SMH says:

    Poor Grant Thornton are now party to the cover up which is worse than the crimes.
    The President and board members should be ashamed and removed from their positions replaced by persons who want the truth and transparency. What exactly do they have to hide? The financials have been cleaned up to protect a few persons. SMH

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  12. CI Deep Throat says:

    Who were the Accountants on record that audited the CIFA accounts and approved the financial statements since 2006? Likely the same accountant that decided to cooperate with the Financial Crimes unit.

    How did Mr. Rankin suddenly discover financial irregularities in 2014 when his accounting firm reviewed the accounts and performed the audits for a number of years before the global FIFA which resulted in the arrest of CIFA Jeff Webb? Turning into a super grass does not excuse his own participation in these events. It is highly improbable that he or his firm were was not aware of years of financial irregularities and questionable loans, payments to numerous individuals connected to the CIFA inner circles.

    This cover up by CIFA the current execute is only the tip of the iceberg.

    The same accountants that signed off on several years of audited accounts should be disqualified as accountants and thoroughly investigated for years of professional negligence and aiding to run a criminal enterprise where family members and politicians were the direct beneficiaries of contracts, funds, loans. Follow the money and Cayman government should not give funds to CIFA until justice has been served and all parties who played roles in these events are brought to justice.

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    • Chris Johnson says:

      I think the problem is the method of auditing as well as training now used by the big accounting firms. It is a tick the box mentality. Whilst they profess to be capable of auditing big hedge funds such as those run by Bernie Madoff ( a joke) they do not seem to be practical in auditing anything outside the box. Had they visited the centre of excellence at Newlands, calculated the square footage of the building and the field they would have spotted something was amiss. Calculating the fill, rock and topsoil was not difficult, they just needed to talk to a QS as I did. The old accounts showed a 1500 square foot building costing $750,000. Think about that. Had the auditors looked at the CPA files they would have seen estimated costs of $170,000. That is some amount of extras. !

      Auditors are not very practical,people and this should be a wake up call plus that from Madoff.

      It comes as no surprise that there are so many audit negligence cases being settled the past few years.

      Of course none of that alleviates any of the former directors from preparing misleading accounts.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    5 years later we’re told the fraud was only committed by the two knwn fraudsters and everything is fine now back to business as usual, and the ACC is way too busy to look at these accounts. This is a massive whitewash even by Cayman standards. Wonder where we would end up if we followed the money trail here?

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    • Anonymous says:

      You’ll find several udp and ppm politicians plus accountants and lawyers will likely be found at the end of this cifa rainbow searching for their share of the pot of gold

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    • Boris says:

      Unfortunately it will stop at the two know fraudsters. The real masterminds will not be touched as usual. Don’t forget the Health Services saga, if thoroughly investigated, the political connections would have been uncovered. However, things don’t work that way here in Cayman.

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    • Anonymous says:

      You will end up in the laps of some big Politicos.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Make report public and show things have changed and you will not protect criminals.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    We already know this closely touches (or interlaces) with the accountability-impaired ruling political class, which is why the investigation into known fraud proceeds to a certain depth, stops, and nothing thereafter happens. CIFA remains under no compulsion to rehaul its corrupt morality or provide any transparency, even though it is the official national sporting authority, and cash vehicle for football programs in the Cayman Islands. Is anyone surprised? Welcome to the Cayman Islands.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    With $5mil coming from FIFA, why would they need $ from Govt?
    Maybe when completely resolved; debts paid, books voluntarily opened (not leaked), charges made, court cases resolved, guilty parties sentenced… until then there are target sports organizations with open books, no mismanagement in need

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  17. Anonymous says:

    Imma keep my donations thanks.

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  18. Chris Johnson says:

    Obviously CIFA now needs to address some pretty serious issues inter-alia

    1. What action do they take to recover losses caused by theft.
    2.What claims do they have against negligence directors and advisors.
    3. For many years CIFA was audited pro bono by the audit firms as similarly done for other charitable and sporting clubs. Then from 2009 the auditors commenced to render bills. These total about $60,000 from 2009 to 2013 as noted in the audited accounts. Perhaps these fees could be refunded by these firms. The audited accounts for those years were wildly inaccurate as determined in my own examination of those accounts done over two years ago. There were more red flags out there than at Old Trafford.

    CIFA needs make the forensic report of Grant Thornton a matter of public record. Crime should not be swept under the carpet.

    In conclusion I think CIFA needs provide the public with far more explanations. After all CIFA is now registered by Government as a Charity. Until that happens I cannot see them raising funds from the public at large.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    As long as they hide the reports CIFA will continue to be more of the same?

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  20. Anonymous says:

    Shout out to Grant Thornton for confirming what everyone already knew.

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    • Anonymous says:

      As Grant Thornton did the forensic investigation and changed the accounts previously prepared by the directors one of whom was a qualified accountant how on earth did they audit their own figures? I always thought auditors should be independent? Can some CPA please explain?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Grant Thornton were paid by FIFA and cleaned up the financials. The situation at CIFA is dire and nothing has changed.

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      • anonymous says:

        So why is it not mentioned in the audited accounts as to their cleaning up job. Surely this should have been mentioned.

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