According to the old adage, “Politics is a dirty business” and in the politics of the football world, it appears to hold true. The Football Federation of Belize has become well known for its scandalous in- fighting, regardless of any new leadership. FFB elections are some 10 days away and the leftovers from last year’s elections are being served up in this new upcoming one. You may recall that last year, Sergio Chuc, Cruz Gamez, and acting President, Marlon Kuylen, made a move against the then president Ruperto Vicente, just weeks before the May Elections.. Vicente was successfully unseated from the presidency after the elections between he and Sergio Chuc ended in a stalemate even after 22 rounds of voting. The result of that was Kuylen’s running of the Federation in the absence of a President Elect. Well, this year, it appears to be Vicente’s turn to throw a spanner in the wheels of Chuc’s chances at the presidency. Both Sergio Chuc and Cruz Gamez have been barred from running in the upcoming elections. Two allegations were made against Sergio Chuc which , after investigation by FFB, resulted in his candidacy being rejected. He told us about the first allegation brought by Ruperto Vicente.
Sergio Chuc, Football Stakeholder: The allegations Mister Vicente made against me is basically for bribery. He put forward a letter to the federation saying that my contributions specially to the premier league of Belize with transportation and uniform would be considered a form of bribery, and therefore that letter initiated a process whereby the federation had to start their investigations. They put Mister Mass, who was an employee of the federation, also hired by Ruperto Vicente when he was in office to do the investigations. Mister Mass basically came up with that what everybody knows that I am the majority shareholder of Westline Bus Company and that in his opinion there should be some judgement on bribery brought against me.
The second allegation made against Chuc was that he was tampering with the electoral process. This allegation was brought against him by Shane Orio, who, Chuc points out, ran as a member under Ruperte’s slate last elections.
Sergio Chuc, Football Stakeholder: And the allegation Shane brought is that I was tampering with the electoral process. Somewhere in February, 5 of the 8 members had signed a document asking for an extraordinary congress to do some house cleaning in the football federation of Belize, however one of those points was a suspension of a member. I was called and said that the member that they wanted to suspend is myself, Segio Chuc. So I called Mister Andy Tillett from PG, who was then the chairman and said “Mister Tillet, there’s a letter here saying that you signed for an extraordinary congress and one of the agenda is my suspension.” Mister Tillet replied, “No Sir, I never signed anything like that. You are my friend, I support you. If you have a copy of that letter I want to see it and I want to recant my signature because I did not sign that.” I asked Mister Tillet to come up to Belmopan so we could recant his signature, he came up, I met him at the bus terminal. I met Mister Shane Oreo at the same terminal, I told Shane what was happening. I told him that Mister Tillett and I are going to Orange Walk and Corozal cause there were members there who were also going to recant their signature. The guy from Orange Walk, Mister Ladrich Shepperd specifically said when I showed him the letter he said, ” Chuc, I never sign that letter, notice that signature is on a second page. That is a completely different letter from what I sign. I am going to recant my signature.” The gentleman from Corozal, the chairman Mister Sutherland said, “Mister Chuch I did sign that letter, however, when they spoke about suspension of a member, it was not about you, that was not you. That is why I sign it. But if they are now saying that it’s you, then I will sign your letter to recant my signature.” That is how the three gentlemen, the three chairman’s recanted their signature and now Mister Moody put that in a letter form to the federation saying investigate Mister Chuc for tampering with the electoral process.
Chuc says the Disciplinary committee, made up of 3 Belizean lawyers, found no case for the allegations to be tried. The disciplinary committee sent a letter saying as much to the Electoral Committee but, according to Chuc, the Electoral Commitee dismissed that letter citing that it was not even on an official letterhead. Chuc appealed to the Appeals committee but they also ruled that both men are still ineligible to contest the elections on June 24th. Chuc was asked what is next for him.
Sergio Chuc, Football Stakeholder: The only next move I see possible at this time would be for these people, members, voters to not attend congress. And so far we have the pledge basically of 60% that they will not be attending the congress. The next step is going to the court of arbitration for sports in Switzerland, we actually already started the process. We’ve contacted Attorney David Larken who is a specialist on sports law and has dealt with several cases with FIFA. He is out of Washington DC and he is gathering information right now on seeing what chances we have, however, it is clear that the process will take anywhere from 6 months to a year to be resolved. So at this stage we’re hoping that the congress would do the right thing and just not show up to this rigged election.
Today, the man who made the allegation of bribery against Sergio Chuc, also spoke to our colleagues at Channel 7. Ruperto Vicente was asked why he reported Chuc’s donations as akin to bribery.
Ruperto Vicente, Former President of the FFB: We’re involved in a sport called football. Football has rules and regulations. We have what we call disciplinary rules and what we call ethical rules. So when Mister Chuc gave out the gifts to the league, or to those teams, I immediately looked at it as a form of bribery and in football, bribery is a very serious offense. So I wrote a letter to the general secretary saying to him that he needs to launch an investigation to see the magnitude and how far reaching this action can be.
Vicente says it was not his decision to ban Chuc from running in the elections. He simply reported the matter.
Ruperto Vicente, Former President of the FFB: When the executive committee of the federation saw that, they made a ruling saying that they will bar Mister Chuc from running. It is not Vicente who did that. All I did was make a compaint and I have that right. It is up to the executive of the federation to take my complaint and to look at it seriously and deemed it seriously and made a decision and so when Mister Chuc application went to the electoral committee and they were about to vet it, they realized that there was a letter from the executive committee of the federation stating that Mister Chuc application cannot be approved.
Now, as we have shared, Sergio Chuc has told the media that his giving of jerseys and transportation to players is no big deal since the players are not voting . However, Vicente sees it differently.
Ruperto Vicente, Former President of the FFB: As I’ve said, bribery and giving gifts in football and as someone who is going to contest the presidency of the federation is a no no. We cannot give gits. That’s out of the question. The electoral code and electoral disciplinary code of FIFA tells you that we cannot do that. And so when he gave the gits, Mister Chuc says that the teams do not vote, the teams make up the congress for the league. The teams direct the executives of the league on how they’re to function. So to say that the league teams do not vote is false, they can influence. So giving gifts, according to FIFA code of ethics, amongst to bribery and corruption in football and that has to be dispelled. We have people who are going to prison as a result of the FIFA scandal the last time. Why? Because they accepted gifts for favours, for votes; and so we need to understand that this is a serious offense. It cannot be taken lightly. And it is not only Mister Chuc who is guilty, those who received the gifts are equally guilty of the same offense and so we have to understand. We have to get it clear.
According to Vicente, Chuc has committed another offense when he requested for members not to report to congress.
Ruperto Vicente, Former President of the FFB: He is asking members of the congress not to report to the congress. What Mister Chuc is doing is another offense. Asking or seeking and influencing members to sabotage the congress and the working of the football federation again that is an offense that requires to be investigated by the federation. So those who have signed on to those letters had been set up to be suspended from football for life. So it is a serious offense, and so I am hoping that the football federation of Belize will look into this matter.
When asked if all of this was not simply an attempt to take out his strongest opponent before the elections, this is what Vicente had to say.
Ruperto Vicente, Former President of the FFB: Football is all about fair play. WHen Mister Chuc made those donations, it quickly rang in my mind that it is unfair. It eliminates all the principles of fair play. I will not be able to go to the league and campaign to the league and ask them for suport or for their votes because now they have received gifts and now must remain loyal to this one candidate. That puts me at an disadvantage. And FIFA ruling is saying fair play must be a part of every aspect of the football activities, whether it be an election, whether it be a football game, fair play must be applied at all times.
According to Vicente, FIFA is aware of what is a happening and wrote the Federation about 2 weeks ago saying that it sees no need to interfere in the Federation’s electoral issues at this time.