Paramaribo, Suriname, Jun 11 : A Caribbean football official acknowledged on Friday getting $40,000 in cash at a meeting which is being investigated in a FIFA bribery scandal.
Suriname federation president Louis Giskus said he received an envelope containing four piles of $100 bills at a Caribbean Football Union (CFU) conference staged in Trinidad for members to meet then FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam.
Giskus told The Associated Press he reported the cash gift to FIFA's ethics committee after it suspended bin Hammam and FIFA's Trinidadian vice president Jack Warner pending a full inquiry into the gravest corruption crisis to hit football's world governing body.
"(Suriname's) reputation is worth more than $40,000," said Giskus, who is helping a FIFA team that includes former FBI agents investigate alleged bribery.
Giskus said he was not initially suspicious because officials typically got gifts on FIFA-related business, and Warner often handled transactions in cash.
Bin Hammam, Warner and two CFU employees are provisionally barred from duty to face accusations of paying bribes to up to 25 Caribbean voters during the Qatari's failed campaign to unseat FIFA President Sepp Blatter. All four deny wrongdoing.
Giskus said Warner invited him to the May 10-11 expenses-paid conference promising gift packages for CFU members. The meeting was announced when bin Hammam did not attend the North and Central American, and Caribbean (CONCACAF) congress in Miami one week earlier.
After hearing bin Hammam's election pitch at a Port of Spain hotel, officials were led to a lobby to receive a laptop and an envelope, Giskus said.
"The whole thing was handled by two people from the CFU secretariat we know very well because we meet and speak with them often," he said.
"When I saw that there was money in the envelope I asked what it was for. They could not explain it to me."
Giskus recalled that, in Miami, CONCACAF members were told they had enjoyed good financial results in its 50th anniversary year and Blatter had promised a $1 million "birthday present" from FIFA.
"So at the time we received the $40,000 I thought that this money had something to do with everything we had heard (in Miami)," the Surinamese official said.
Giskus said that he and a colleague counted the money and wrote down the serial numbers of the four stacks of $100 bills. He said he had "all the paperwork to prove that" the money was deposited in the Suriname federation's local bank account, where it remains.
The scandal emerged after Bahamas officials returned the cash and alerted CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer, who commissioned an initial probe that found whistleblowers from three more countries who refused to accept payments. Puerto Rico, like Suriname, confessed at the FIFA Congress in Zurich earlier this month that it had accepted the payments.
Warner, who's been a FIFA executive committee member for 28 years and led CONCACAF since 1990, often dealt in cash, Giskus said.
"More than once I have received cash money from the CFU for referees in Suriname after international duties, which was sent by courier service in an envelope. Money which should have been sent by wire transfer," he said.
Giskus said he did not suspect the money came from bin Hammam, who told FIFA's ethics panel he transferred $360,000 to the CFU to meet conference costs.
"And surely I did not feel any obligation to vote for bin Hamman after receiving the money. It was clear -- Blatter had already proven that he could deliver results while bin Hamman only had promises," Giskus said.
Bin Hammam withdrew from the presidential contest hours before his ethics hearing, and three days ahead of the June 1 poll at FIFA's congress which returned Blatter unopposed for a fourth and a final four-year term.
During a telephone interview with The AP, Giskus took calls from FIFA investigators gathering evidence for a full ethics inquiry expected next month.
Giskus said he gave statements in Zurich last week and does not expect to be called to interviews scheduled to start in the Bahamas on Tuesday.
FIFA investigators hope to speak with officials from around 18 CFU members who have denied being offered payments. AP