Soccer > Atlanta Resident at Heart of FIFA Scandal

| May 31, 2015
AJC Photo

AJC Photo

ATLANTA — One of the highest-ranking soccer officials named in the FIFA bribery scandal lives part time in the Atlanta area, and prosecutors allege that some of the illicit cash he received paid for the swimming pool at his palatial Rockdale County home.

Jeffrey Webb, a vice president of the sport’s governing body, was arrested at a Zurich hotel Wednesday along with five others in connection to what federal prosecutors claim is a case of bribes and kickbacks going back two decades.

Although Webb is a citizen of the Cayman Islands and his business interests are centered there, he is married to an Atlanta physician, Kendra Gamble-Webb. They own a 9,851-square-foot home that sits on 2.7 acres in Loganville.

Jeffrey Webb, a vice president of the governing body for FIFA, has this home in Rockdale County. Webb is one of the officials named in the FIFA bribery scandal, and prosecutors allege that some illicit cash he received paid for the swimming pool at the home. Photo from Rockdale County Board of Tax Assessors

Now that property and another Atlanta-area real estate holding tied to Webb have emerged as elements of a 47-count indictment that alleges corruption at the highest level of international soccer.

Webb is the president of CONCACAF, the body that governs soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean. His election to that position in 2012 also made him a FIFA vice president and a member of that organization’s executive committee.

The positions make Webb, 50, one of the most powerful people in his sport, and he has often been cited as a possible successor to Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s long-standing president. Blatter has not been charged in the corruption case.

According to the indictment, an associate of Webb’s solicited a $3 million bribe for Webb from an event management company. The company wanted a contract to stage Caribbean qualifying matches for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The associate, Costas Takkas, arranged for a portion of the money to be transferred to the account of a swimming pool builder at United Community Bank in Blairsville, the indictment alleges. The builder is not named. Takkas also transferred another portion of the funds to SunTrust bank in Georgia for Webb’s purchase of real estate in Stone Mountain, the indictment says.

Records show that the Loganville home, which has five bedrooms and nine baths, was purchased by Webb in 2011 for $590,000. A pool was added to the property two years later, the records show. In 2013, Webb purchased a three-bedroom home in Stone Mountain for $60,000, records show.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, who supervised the initial stages of the investigation in her role as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said that FIFA officials believed the U.S. banking system was a “safe financial haven” for perpetuating a series of alleged schemes that enriched themselves illegally, according to a story in the New York Times.

“They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament,” Lynch said.

All told, nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were indicted on charges that included racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors contend that the bribes totaled $150 million.

Webb, whose background is in banking, became at least a part-time resident of Atlanta when he and Gamble-Webb, an obstetrician, were married in August 2013. The festivities included an elaborate reception at the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead.

Gamble-Webb was quoted by weddingstylemagazine.com as saying she met Webb in Miami while with a group of friends at a hotel bar on South Beach. The couple maintained a long-distance relationship before Webb moved to Atlanta so they could be together, she said.

“It was truly a singular moment in time that changed my life forever,” she said, recalling the night she and Webb met.

The St. Regis was selected for their wedding because “we go to the spa there regularly and have always stayed there for romantic weekend getaways inside the city,” Gamble-Webb said.

When it was announced last year that Falcons owner Arthur Blank had acquired a Major League Soccer franchise for Atlanta, Webb was at the news conference, where he extolled the virtues of his adopted home.

“Excellent,” Webb said when asked to comment on the league’s expansion to Atlanta. “Excellent to see MLS expanding, and, of course, Atlanta’s a great city, a great community, and for many years it’s been a hotbed for soccer.”

The CONCACAF website describes Webb, who chairs FIFA’s anti-racism and discrimination task force, as “a global visionary whose commitment to development and reform is strongly impacting the world of football, not only at the regional level but also internationally.”

On Thursday, CONCACAF announced that it was “provisionally” banning Webb and another official linked to the scandal from the organization.

Atlanta Journal Constitution

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