Disgraced Fifa Boss Stashed $1m At Cibc Bahamas
A disgraced senior FIFA official has agreed to forfeit 50 per cent of the $1 million he had stashed away in a secret CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank (Bahamas) account, court documents have revealed.
The plea agreement between the US federal authorities and Charles (Chuck) Blazer, which was unsealed late on Monday, discloses that the American soccer executive had amassed $975,751 in his Nassau-based account by 2010.
“The defendant [Blazer] agrees that…. the value of his unreported account at FirstCaribbean International Bank (Bahamas) in 2010 was $975,751.48, and he is subject to a civil monetary penalty of 50 per cent of that amount, or $487,875,” the plea agreement states.
Blazer, the former general-secretary of soccer’s governing body for North and Central America, and the Caribbean, previously pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges and failing to declare his ownership of the CIBC Bahamas account to the US tax authorities.
Tribune Business previously reported how he admitted to “wilful failure” to report his beneficial ownership of a foreign bank account, as he had failed to inform the US Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of its existence for income tax purposes.
In an earlier court hearing, Mr Blazer admitted: “In 2010, while a resident of New York, I had an interest in and controlled bank accounts in the Bahamas with a total value exceeding $10,000.
“I intentionally and willfully did not file a report disclosing those accounts to the Department of the Treasury. I did this while violating the Federal tax law.”
The official, who once sat on FIFA’s powerful executive committee, the top-decision making body for world soccer, also admitted to receiving/sending wire transfers and cheques between the US and the Caribbean that he knew represented the proceeds of bribes.
“Funds procured through these improper payments passed through JFK Airport in the form of a cheque,” Mr Blazer admitted.
Tribune Business previously revealed how a Bahamas banker from CIBC made a round-trip to New York to collect a $250,000 cheque from Blazer, which was part of a $10 million bribe to influence voting on which nation would stage the 2010 soccer World Cup.
The banker then flew back to the Bahamas on May 3, 2011, and deposited the $250,000 into Blazer’s CIBC FirstCaribbean bank account in Nassau, which had been undeclared to the US tax authorities until the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began its FIFA bribery probe.
The $250,000 cheque payment to Blazer stemmed from the campaign to host FIFA’s 2010 soccer World Cup.
The US Justice Department’s lawsuit against him alleges that there was much competition for the votes of Blazer and his fellow FIFA executive committee members, who would ultimately select the host nation.
Morocco allegedly offered to pay a $1 million bribe to one of Blazer’s colleagues, before representatives from FIFA, the South African government and its bid committee told the same person they were prepared to offer him $10 million – dressed up as a payment to a soccer organisation “to support the African diaspora”.
Blazer was due a $1 million cut from the $10 million, ultimately receiving $750,000 via three payments.
The third and final one was connected to the Bahamas, with the $250,000 drawn on a bank account held by the Caribbean Football Union (which represents the Bahamas). The cheque was delivered from Trinidad to Blazer at CONCACAF’s New York offices.
“A representative of FirstCaribbean International Bank in the Bahamas, where Blazer held another account, subsequently travelled by plane to New York, landing at JFK Airport,” the US Justice Department said.
“After arriving the bank representative travelled to New York, where he took custody of the cheque. He subsequently travelled to the Bahamas and, on or about May 3, 201, deposited the cheque into Blazer’s account.”
CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank (Bahamas) subsequently told Tribune Business it was conducting an investigation into these revelations and its banker’s New York round-trip.
“We have initiated our own review in light of this matter, and will continue to take all appropriate steps towards ensuring that our bank is never used for illicit purposes,” a CIBC FirstCaribbean spokesperson told Tribune Business via e-mail.
“Our policy is to co-operate with all law enforcement agencies.”
Tribune Business knows who the ‘New York round trip’ banker is, but has been advised by attorneys not to name them for legal reasons.
Given that CIBC would have been engaged in US Foreign Account Tax Compliance (FATCA) due diligence at the time of the events referenced by the US authorities, it is difficult to see how the bank could not have known about Blazer’s beneficial ownership.
By travelling to New York, the banker’s actions may well have placed them within the US justice system’s reach, exposing them to potential prosecution and actions by the federal authorities.
And they may also have exposed CIBC FirstCaribbean, as well as themselves, to allegations that they were facilitating tax evasion and money laundering by Blazer, the former general-secretary of soccer’s governing body for North and Central America, and the Caribbean.
The situation also raises questions about the strength of CIBC FirstCaribbean’s Know Your Customer (KYC) and due diligence processes. These are likely to be two of the areas subject to its internal “review”.