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Eric Labrador, President of the Puerto Rican Football Federation, Breaks His Silence about CFU Money from Hammam and Warner

2011 May 31

Just five months after assuming the presidency of the Puerto Rican Football Federation (FPF), Eric Labrador is in the eye of a hurricane.

This article was written by the premier soccer journalist of Puerto Rico, Esteban Pagán Rivera, and appeared on Monday in Primera Hora. Pagán has given IMS special permission to run this article in English.

Special thanks to Pagán and Primera Hora.

Labrador was the only president of the associations of the CFU who reported to FIFA an expenditure of $40,000 in cash at the meeting held on 10 and 11 May in Trinidad and Tobago. (Primera Hora / Jose L. Cruz Candelaria)

The FPF and Labrador unexpectedly gained international renown when on Sunday, the general secretary of FIFA, Jerome Valcke, revealed that the Puerto Rican federation leader told him about a possible attempt of bribery by the former candidate for president of FIFA, Mohammed bin Hammam, and President of CONCACAF and the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), Jack Warner.

“I am calm because I think I did what I had to do. This is a matter of the Ethics Committee of FIFA, that has already made its approach,” Labrador said yesterday in an interview with Primera Hora from Switzerland, home to the headquarters of FIFA.

Labrador represented the first association in the Caribbean that informed the Executive Committee of FIFA that the CFU paid $40,000 in cash to the presidents of the associations in Trinidad and Tobago on May 10 and 11 after a meeting with Bin Hammam, who had promised that, if elected president of FIFA, he would double the contributions of FIFA to the members of the CFU.

However, Bin Hammam, who also chairs the Asian Football Confederation, resigned his candidacy for the top post of FIFA this past weekend.

Warner and Bin Hammam were suspended from all FIFA activities on Sunday.

Labrador defended his position that he had originally received $40,000 even though the Code of Ethics of FIFA does not allow them to receive cash gifts.

“I understood that the money was given by the Confederation of Asia for the development of football in the Caribbean and we accepted it on those terms,” said Labrador, who said the money was given by employees of the CFU and that he was unaware it was in cash until he finally left the delivery room.

Similarly, Labrador said he insisted that a CFU official signed him a letter that confirmed that the money was for the development of federation program, which was delivered.

“If I did not have that letter, I would have not traveled with the money. I had to explain it at Customs,” said Labrador.

“When I received the money, I discussed everything with the secretary general (of the FPF, Frankie Gautier), until we decided to ask for the letter. We informed the Executive Committee (of the FPF). The people that gave me the money were from CFU and NOT FROM bin Hammam,” he said.

Also, Labrador stressed that he never made a commitment to vote for Bin Hammam. “I accepted a contribution, I did not accept money to vote for anybody,” he stressed.

Once in Puerto Rico, Labrador said he proceeded to deposit the money in the bank accounts of the Federation.

“Then the comments began that (Joseph) Blatter (FIFA president) knew of the meeting (in Trinidad), but not about the transaction. Then I realized something was wrong and decided to bring to Switzerland the check of $40,000 made by the Federation, just in case. Then I saw the circumstances that led me here in Switzerland to make the decision to report it,” explained Labrador, who did not rule out eventually have to return to Switzerland for questioning by FIFA.

33 Responses
  1. Bart permalink
    May 31, 2011

    Nice. He receives $40,000 in CASH, and he thought it was on the up and up? I would say that in a world where FIFA heads may be rolling, Mr. Labrador seems to have been running scared.

  2. May 31, 2011

    Bart,
    Jay and I just finished an audio interview with Pagan which I will hopefully have up tomorrow. Really interesting stuff. He seems to be giving Labrador the benefit of the doubt at this point and time. Mr. Labrador is in Switzerland as we write these notes and will be speaking to FIFA.

  3. Bart permalink
    May 31, 2011

    BQ, I am sure you know this but every head of each organization is in Zurich at this moment as FIFA Congress is in session and Blatter is to be voted on, unless 140 organizations can vote not to vote on a President for the next term.

    Gulati has held several phone conferences over the last day.

    I have a very hard time with giving an adult who takes $40,000 in CASH on foreign soil (remember, they were in the Bahamas), and acts as though this is business as usual, with no accountability.

    This is a huge character issue, and given what is going on in PR, and the fact that he is at the helm, my general philosophy is where there is smoke, there is fire.

    This is exactly the type of behavior that was discussed in this forum during the Traffic/Davidson topic and is now coming full circle in PR.

    I think Blatter will try to quelch this and keep it all in-house with FIFA, but the international organizations that got screwed this last World Cup nomination session are pissed.

  4. May 31, 2011

    The correct term is “squelch” not quelch. Please, let’s try to exercise caution when typing on the IMS forums.

    But seriously, what happens now to Chuck Blazer and any future US representation in FIFA now that he’s ratted out Warner. Seems like the rest of the CONCACAF crew are mad as hornets right now.

  5. May 31, 2011

    Bart,

    “squelch” not quelch.” Welcome to my world. 😉

    What sort of conversations has Gulati had over the last day. That is a very generalized statement that really doesn’t mean a lot. However, I do believe you and am interested in more details.

  6. jw7 permalink
    May 31, 2011

    The 40,000 was given before the vote, with more to come after Bin Hammam was elected. How much more?

  7. jw7 permalink
    May 31, 2011

    Only double? Really… Kinda cheap guy to buy, ahe?

  8. tomASS permalink
    June 1, 2011

    FIFA has an ethics committee ???????????

  9. Taylor permalink
    June 1, 2011

    What we’re witnessing here is war among FIFA officers. It’s now Blatter vs Bin Hammam cliques. And it’ll be interesting to see when/if they disclose each other’s “sins” in the next few days. It could get really ugly.

    IMHO, Bin Hammam is not cleaner than Blatter. They’re both the same.

    Take a case of Indonesian Football Association (PSSI). The previous PSSI leader was actually convicted when he was still in the position but still led the organization behind bar. What did FIFA and AFC do ? Nothing. The rumor was the PSSI leader was a huge supporter of Bin Hammam.

  10. Strikers Return permalink
    June 1, 2011

    @Bart – Ok….I’ll bite. What in the name of heaven does Traffic and Aaron Davidson have to do with this story Bart? I mean, come on. How far off topic do you need to go just to toss in a shot at NASL? LOL You’re too much sometimes Bart…too much. LOL

  11. June 1, 2011

    Strikers Return,

    He’s talking about a large soccer business possibly trying to influence members of FIFA. I’m not saying he’s right. I’m just saying that right now I think everyone is being looked at and if my podcast file hadn’t corrupted this morning I’d have an audio interview with Esteban Pagán Rivera which totally explains what has happened in the Caribbean with Jack Warner, the CFU and Puerto Rico and how this may very well effect the chances of the Islanders continued participation in the CFU. When I get home this afternoon I should be able to get the file fixed. It’s a very good listen.

  12. Bart permalink
    June 1, 2011

    @Strikers Return

    All that glistens is not gold. The Traffic/NASL/Davidson comment is not off topic. In fact, this issue is at the heart of the conversation during previous postings. Why do you think there is such a fervor against Traffic owning D2 soccer in the US? We call it the schmutz factor.

    Sometimes one has to take a step back to see the forest for the trees.

  13. Jay Long permalink
    June 1, 2011

    @Bart: We here at IMS hope that you (“es–you, personally!”) enjoy the discussion that we are trying to faciliate since you, Bart (“yes–you, personally) requested last week hat we try to offer some sort of coverage regarding these very significant regional events with global proportions.

    😀

  14. Bart permalink
    June 1, 2011

    @Jay Long

    I am humbled that I, someone who insignificance is unparalleled in this universe, am being honored with the attention that is so undeserved.

    I personally think this is a very big story, if it is unraveled at the thread level it needs to be, but history tells us that FIFA will use all of its influence to ensure that this is kept in the FIFA house, and ultimately out of the main stream media. Yes, a few obligatory heads will roll, but that will be to secure the illusion that FIFA controlled the problem.

    Again, I am honored that company such as yourselves would think of me at this moment in time.

  15. Strikers Return permalink
    June 1, 2011

    @Bart – For once we agree. Not that it’s a difficult resolution to come to, but your characterization of the way this mess will play out is probably right on. FIFA motors on, passing mere speed bumps like this in the road regularly doesn’t it? After all, they’re the ones that rule the football world, aren’t they? They’re more than capable of cleaning this mess up, err, rooting out corruption if by some slim chance it should be found. Nothing to see here really, just move along folks, move along.

    @BQ – I just take a little exception to the fact that Bart needs to choose an article that is not related to the NASL and direct his comments into a shot at Aaron Davidson. It’s just Bart being Bart I guess. Yes the Islanders are in the NASL, but Traffic has nothing to do with the Islanders or the CFU do they? And for the life of me, I can’t quite understand why people keep thinking that Traffic did what they did in supporting the Railhawks and Silverbacks this year because they were suddenly struck with the urge to own three teams instead of one. They want a league for THEIR team, the Strikers, to play in. They did what they felt was necessary to make sure the league was in operation this season. Did the USSF ever come out publicly with a checklist as it were, of things the NASL needs to do in order to get sanctioned again next year? We all assume Traffic divesting itself of majority interest in at least one, and maybe both of these additional teams might be on that list. So why on God’s green Earth would they WANT to go on with things status quo, and “own” D2 soccer in North America as Bart suggests? To me, it seems those positions are at odds. But hey, I’m just a middle-aged soccer fan, and not some fancy schmancy lawyer type. LOL

  16. Strikers Return permalink
    June 1, 2011

    BQ – BTW, looking forward to the podcast later, as well as the weekly NASL podcast too! I’m waiting for it to get posted so I can let Jay know how things are going to turn out down here at Lockhart on Saturday! LOL

  17. June 1, 2011

    Well, how did things turn out for you in Lockhart last weekend?!?! 😉

  18. Vegas Vic permalink
    June 1, 2011

    So Labrador took $40,000 cash as a “gift” from a meeting arranged for the purpose of allowing a FIFA presidential candidate to meet with federation preseidents with nothing asked of him or his federation in return, and then didn’t report it to anyone until after the bribery charges were filed against whomever and the story was plastered all over the media. This appears more a case of panic then a case of morality. If this story never breaks, then the money is never returned. Its not as if they were always planning to give this back to FIFA the whole time. So this is all damage control.

    How many times has that already occurred in the past that we don’t know about? Its likely that this is the norm in a lot of these circles, rather than some isolated incident. The difference here is someone blew the whistle.

    Also I think Bart raises a good point. Isn’t this really similar to Traffic’s gift to USSF to support their World Cup bid at the same time the NASL was up for D2 sanctioning? Plus, I believe Traffic bought the tv and stadium sponsor rights from the CFU for its members during World Cup qualifying. So I think there is a connection.

  19. tomASS permalink
    June 1, 2011

    FIFA = the Cosa Nostra of the beautiful game

  20. FSUFiji permalink
    June 1, 2011

    I am suprised that R. Murdoch doesn’t start something like the Football’s Global Organization of Associations and Leagues. Like when NBC or other channels help create break away American football organizations due to strikes or perceived economic advantage.. There could easily be a competitor to the FIFA monster. So FIFA sanctions you? Start your own “Global Cup” ®. By-pass things like USSF and create shadow organizations that enter teams I the international competition or get USSF to jump. Enough money and a different management ideal where we have representation of federations by soccer populations rather than one country one vote would persuade some big players to hedge their bets and join a new money federation. Games will be on the world wide Fox Soccer or Sky sport. Let FIFA keep Tahiti and Tonga, Qatar and Kuwait we’ll take Europe and North America. Let the free market roam the fields of the beautiful game. I just don’t understand how this mafia family can have so much power or can infringe on the trade of corporations. Gosh can’t take them to court or you get sanctioned. Time for a new organization.

  21. Jay Long permalink
    June 1, 2011

    @FSUFiji: I admire your creative thinking and your dramatic flair, but I have to tell you- I am definitely not an economics expert but one could argue that the “free market” has already been roaming quite freely in the form of bribes and perks.

    I also find it more than just a “little” ironic that someone who has “Fiji” in their online moniker is talking about “let(ting) FIFA keep Taihiti and Tonga, Qatar and Kuwait we’ll take Europe and North America…”

    That is not a “putdown”. I am a shamless Puerto Rican soccer supporter, so I definitely think that there is place for the little guys in the larger scheme of world football. I just found it amusing.

    NBC and XFL football didn’t turn out all that great after the first week’s curiosity disappeared. the WWF lost a lot of money on that venture.

    But like I said, I sincerely admire your “anything is possible” attitude when there is a lot of capital available. 🙂

  22. June 1, 2011

    You know something that I think is missing here is that every freaking kid who plays youth soccer has a bit of his/her fees paid to FIFA. Seems to me some sort of grassroots effort should be started here.

    Don’t Cheat the Children!

  23. Bart permalink
    June 1, 2011

    @ Vegas Vic wrote: “…Isn’t this really similar to Traffic’s gift to USSF to support their World Cup bid at the same time the NASL was up for D2 sanctioning? Plus, I believe Traffic bought the tv and stadium sponsor rights from the CFU for its members during World Cup qualifying….”

    It is more than similar, it is the same thing. On a FIFA scale, Davidson would have been Bin Hamman, and a certain rep from USSF was Labrador. Of course, no one REALLY said directly it was a bribe for D2 sanctioning. But hey, why wait until after the vote, let’s get that money into the hands of the folks that vote ahead of schedule to show them that Davidson/NASL are just a bunch of committed good guys living in the pure ivory tower.

    I am with BQ, “Don’t Cheat the Children!!” DCC tshirts for everyone.

  24. June 1, 2011

    I believe it was very poor form for Traffic to give that gift right before the sanctioning vote in November and probably not a very good decision by Sunil Gulati to accept that donation with the timing of the vote. (yes, I heard that some USSF board members were not very comfortable about it)

    I do think it was different as the money was for the Go USA Bid Committee as the organization had spent an enormous amount of money to present the bid to FIFA. Lets not forget the Gulati and US Soccer had been soliciting donations for the GO USA Bid. Who didn’t stand to make money (except you and I) if the US had been given the 2022 games.

  25. Taylor permalink
    June 1, 2011

    FSUFiji,

    do you realize that only 11 countries abstained from re-electing Blatter, meaning 153 voted for Blatter’s re-election ? Only England and Scotland were big federations among those 11 countries. Where were Germany, Brazil, etc ? They re-elected Blatter. England couldn’t even garner support from Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland.

    So I can’t imagine a breakaway organization. Plus imagine the scenario:
    1. FA declare that they leave FIFA
    2. FIFA announces sanctions to FA: all competitions are deemed “illegal”. Players participated in the illegal competition will be banned from playing for the national teams. Clubs will not be allowed to participate in FIFA-sanctioned tournaments.
    3. Offenders will be punished severely – including teams or countries playing against English clubs, national teams fielding players playing in the English leagues.

    These 3 items are more than enough to scare the prospective defectors.

  26. Bart permalink
    June 1, 2011

    BQ

    Come on, the issue at hand was the intent of the giver, not if personal inurement came to pass. Traffic, a Brazilian company forking over cash for the benefit of a US World Cup award?

    How altruistic of this South American philanthropic business whose only goal is to help promote US soccer.

    You are correct, Gulati most certainly should have not accepted the monies until after the vote took place, that in and of itself was improper, especially since the Traffic offer happened right before a known vote.

    But let’s not shirk Traffic’s intent, which was no different than a meager $40,000 bribe to a bunch of voters for the FIFA Presidency. Both wanted a vote to go a certain way.

  27. June 1, 2011

    Are you telling me Traffic would not have benefited with a US World Cup compare to a Qatar World Cup. Bullocks my man, bullocks.

  28. Bart permalink
    June 1, 2011

    BQ,

    Interesting point, but I would bet that after the Brazil World Cup, if done right, Traffic will do well in Qatar as well.

    Nice defense, however!

  29. Strikers Return permalink
    June 1, 2011

    @Bart – You don’t have any facts to back your contentions, just your opinion really. You certainly don’t have any ability to ascertain what the intentions were of anyone involved. Considering your long time hatred of anything NASL, it’s not exactly unexpected either.

    Who said Traffic has to be altruistic in supporting US soccer? It’s business my man, pure and simple. Traffic wants to field a D2 pro team. Traffic wants to loan and sell players to US professional soccer teams. Tell me how it isn’t in their best interest to support US soccer. Geez man, come on. Anyone can spend a few minutes and come up with a plausible, if not biased, hypothesis on this situation.

    All I’ll agree to was that the timing could have been better. But that in and of itself is meaningless. With nothing else to build your case on, it doesn’t stand up.

  30. Randy Torres permalink
    June 2, 2011

    One point to ponder: Labrador was accompanied on that trip by Frankie Gautier, the FPF’s secretary general. Mr. Gautier has been the FPF’s secretary general for approximately 6 years. Mr. Gautier knew or should have known that an envelope with $40,000 in cash is HIGHLY irregular and a clear violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics, which specifically prohibits the acceptance of cash “gifts”. Mr. Gautier, however, has been implicated in a series of corruption scandals himself in Puerto Rico.

    Furthermore, Mr. Labrador is a consummate politician and a former secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Recreation and Sports, a government instrumentality of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. As a former government official, Mr. Labrador knew or should have known that acceptance of an envelope containing $40,000 is in all likelihood a violation of ethics and possibly the law.

    It appears that Mr. Labrador deposited the funds in an FPF banking account and waited approximately 20 days before he reported it to FIFA. Getting the CFU letter and reporting the funds to US Customs was clever window dressing by Mr. Labrador in an action known in the legal profession as: “covering your ass”.

    One final point. For Joe Serralta to become president of CFU is merely to substitute one corrupt and incompetent buffoon for another. Joe Serralta has been one of the most corrupt and incompetent federation presidents of the last 50 years. For starters, he is an unprocessed criminal, having impersonated a licensed engineer for more than 10 years in violation of Commonwealth law. This is a felony punishable with a term in prison. The Colegio de Ingenieros y Agrimensores de Puerto Rico, the self-regulatory organization that regulates PR engineers, issued a cease and desist order against Serralta and he was forced to remove the reference to “his” engineering license from the FPF’s official website. He has yet to explain himself.

    With respect to your comment in the podcast interview with Esteban Pagan that he is the architect of Puerto Rican soccer, I suppose, if you consider designing and constructing a latrine an accomplishment worthy of praise. The Islanders became an important team AFTER he sold the team to the Guillermard group. Before that it was a no name and bankrupt team struggling to survive (mainly by not paying its players and coaching staff) and playing in a local non-FPF affiliated league.

    His achievements as president of the FPF are equally “impressive”. In 6 years as president of the FPF, the senior men’s team had no more than 6 official games TOTAL, all either losses or ties. There were hardly any youth national team appearances of any age or gender, because he established an inverted pyramid structure for Puerto Rico’s soccer, which essentially ignored any type of youth development system. His crowning achievement as president, however, may have been the loss of the football tournament at the Central American and Caribbean Games after CONCACAF inspectors determined the playing venues were not up to FIFA standards. Incredibly, Serralta was completely detached from the process and never provided any explanations. He “saved” the day by transferring the women’s tournament (but not the men’s thereby betraying a team of hardworking young men) to Venezuela.
    Now as president of the PRSL he continues his particular brand of executive excellence by presiding over a league where teams routinely cheat their players and coaches out of their salaries (something he did himself as the owner of the Islanders), teams routinely “reschedule” their games or take “sabbaticals” and “forget” to inform the league or their fans, some teams (3 to be exact) have to scramble to find a a playing field, some playing “home” games in a different field each week and the cherry on the sundae: 3 PRSL teams were expelled from the USL because they couldn’t meet their financial commitments–ironically, the same 3 teams that presume to challenge the Islanders for a spot in the CFU/CONCACACAF Champions League!

    So yeah, Joe Serralta is PERFECT for the CFU presidency, after all, to paraphrase the famous line in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown: “Forget it Jake, its CFU”!

  31. Jay Long permalink
    June 2, 2011

    @Mr. Randy Torres:

    Welcome to IMS. Given your background with soccer in Puerto Rico, I am personally very honored that you have taken the time to participate in this particular forum.

    The comments referring to Sr. Joe Serralta “being the architect of (professional) Puerto Rican soccer”, were mine, alone. That is my personal opinion.

    While you and I both share a love of the game and desire only the best for Puerto Rican soccer, we disagree in some of our assessments and we differ in the words and type of rhetoric that we choose to communicate our thoughts on the subject.

    I find many of Mr. Serralta’s accomplishments worthy of praise. There are other decisions that I have questioned.

    During the discussion regading Esteban’s interview with Sr. Eric Labrador, while it was not noted that he was in previously charge of the DRD (Department of Recreation and Sports), if you take the time to review some of our more recent pieces relating to soccer in Puerto Rico, you will see that we have mentioned that specific fact to our readers.

    You will also note that we have already attempted to introduce you to our readers…

    http://www.insidemnsoccer.com/2011/05/18/fpf-president-responds-to-river-plate-accusations/

    The Gautier angle is a fascinating facet of this particular story (even his continued participation in the FPF is something that could be descbribed as “fascinating”); thank you for introducing it to the discussion.

    As far as several of your other points: some of them we will agree on. Many we will not. Our personal takes on those points are sometimes very similiar and at other times, complete, polar opposites.

    Thanks again for participating here on IMS. By taking the intiative to mention you, several weeks prior to your posting your comments, we have attempted to acknowledge your participation in the discussion of matters of great importance to Puerto Rican football.

  32. Bart permalink
    June 2, 2011

    @Strikers Return

    You miss the point of this discussion. First of all, I don’t “hate” NASL, and certainly nothing “long term”, as you put it. That serves no purpose and is just an emotional waste of time.

    So, according to you, all Traffic wants to do is field a D2 pro team and loan and sell players to US professional soccer teams? Really? Where is that Traffic’s stated mission, and by that, I mean the stated mission out of Brazil? You are not going to find that statement, largely because both are big time money losers, and that is not Traffic’s style.

    There will always be debate on what the true intent was for Traffic’s “donation” prior to the vote, but the same could hold true for Labrador’s intent as well…he only waited a few frickin’ days until the roof blew off before he came clean.

    Let’s just call it a different of opinion.

  33. Strikers Return permalink
    June 3, 2011

    @Bart – As I noted “anyone can spend a few minutes and come up with a plausible theory.” I don’t know anymore about the “mission statement” of Traffic than you do. But I don’t feel the need to be unnecessarily cynical about it. But let’s spin it your way for a second. Let’s say that “donation” was meant to help the cause of granting the NASL D2 sanctioning. That leaves Traffic free now to operate those “big time money losers” as you called them. So, does this mean they’re just the stupidest people on the face of the earth? Or are they just fond of bleeding millions of dollars? Are they just supremely confident that eventually they’ll see D2 grow in popularity with fans and at some point they’ll be able to recover all these losses they’ve suffered this year?

    None of those sounds particularly likely to me. But as you say, that’s just my opinion. I do think they believe they are developing a model that will make D2 work. If they are right, nobody knows, and only time will tell. I’m not missing the point of anything. I simply don’t agree with your point of view in lumping Traffic in with this shady looking guy Labrador.

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