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.