FIFA scandal exacerbates Canadian banks' Caribbean troubles

Tue Jun 30, 2015 12:33pm EDT
 
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By Euan Rocha, John Tilak and Michael Erman

TORONTO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - An eyebrow-raising disclosure in the U.S. indictment of FIFA officials is that a representative of a Caribbean bank made it easy for one allegedly illegal transaction to be done by flying to New York to personally collect a check and then returned to deposit it in an account in the Bahamas.

This unusual courier service, which reduced the electronic trail on a $250,000 payment to former FIFA official Chuck Blazer in May 2011, was provided by an unnamed officer of Barbados-based CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank, the indictment shows. CIBC FirstCaribbean is a subsidiary of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Canada's fifth-largest bank.

That check, U.S. prosecutors allege, was part of a $10 million bribe paid in return for the votes of then FIFA vice president Jack Warner, Blazer and another FIFA official in support of South Africa being granted the rights to host the 2010 World Cup.

Blazer has pleaded guilty to a series of financial crimes, including money laundering, wire fraud and tax evasion, and is cooperating with authorities. Trinidad and Tobago-based Warner, who has been charged with bribery, wire fraud and money laundering offences, has consistently denied wrongdoing.

In a charging document, U.S. prosecutors say that Blazer transported payments in ways designed to conceal and disguise funds in breach of U.S. law. Blazer’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

The payment is among a series of transactions being reviewed by U.S. authorities to see whether any banks knowingly facilitated money laundering, or failed to give the transactions proper scrutiny as required by law.

Other Canadian banks with operations in the Caribbean are also facing questions related to the FIFA probe, which has led to the indictment of 9 current or former soccer officials and five executives in sports marketing or broadcasting.

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Scotiabank Mexico CEO Enrique Zorrilla (2nd L), Scotiabank Chief Marketing Officer John Doig (3rd L), President of CONCACAF Jeffrey Webb (3rd R), Mexican Football Federation (FEMEXFUT) President Justino Compean (2nd R), and Aaron Davidson (R), president of the sponsorship rights agency Traffic Sports USA, gesture during a joint presentation between Scotiabank and the CONCACAF at the Stock Exchange in Mexico City in a December 9, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/File