Haiti football sexual abuse claims: more officials investigated by Fifa

Haiti football sexual abuse claims: more officials investigated by Fifa

Fifa is investigating three more senior officials from the Haitian Football Federation over allegations of sexual abuse, the Guardian can reveal.

Rosnick Grant, a former international referee who is now president of the FHF’s referees’ commission (Cona) and a vice-president of the FHF, long-serving executive secretary Fenelus Guerrier and another vice-president, Garry Nicolas, were contacted at the end of August by Fifa’s ethics committee and asked to provide written statements after being informed they are subjects of the investigation.

Grant and Guerrier both confirmed that they are cooperating with the investigation. Nicolas did not respond to a request for comment and details of the allegations made against him are not clear.

The FHF president Yves Jean-Bart’s suspension was extended by a further 90 days last month and Fifa also imposed temporary bans on the technical director Wilner Etienne and Nela Joseph, girls’ supervisor at the FHF’s Centre Technique National in Croix-des-Bouquets, pending an investigation into their alleged involvement in widespread sexual abuse.

It is understood that several alleged victims have already given evidence to Fifa about Grant, who spent 16 years as a referee before being appointed as Cona president in 2009 and is responsible for the appointment of referees in Haiti’s domestic leagues. They have claimed that he intimidated young officials by threatening to end their careers if they did not have sex with him.

“He harassed us,” said one alleged victim who did not want to be named. “If you want to have a career, to referee tournaments, the only person who can make that happen is Grant. He uses it as a leverage. To be selected, we have some tests, physical for example. Some girls passed the test but they’re not selected. We have some girls who didn’t go to the physical test but are still selected because they sleep with Grant. It’s very simple.”

Another added: “I’m still a referee so I have to be very careful but the situation isn’t acceptable. We’re harassed, blackmailed. If you want to have a career, to referee tournaments, to go abroad, Grant is the only one that can make happen. Obviously we were shocked but what can we do? It’s the way things work in all the federation. For the girls, you have to give your body if you want something. Most of us came from poor families. To become a referee or a football player is a way to get out of poverty. For some of them, it’s a simple choice because they don’t have the choice.”

Another former referee who came under Grant’s jurisdiction has also claimed that he attempted to take her virginity when she was 17, below the age of consent in Haiti.

“I spent several years as a referee and it was a constant fight,” she said. “When I was 17 years old, Grant tried to take my virginity. In exchange, he promised me so many things … That’s how they do it. They helped some girls in a way that they can’t speak out. Sometimes, I have nightmares about him and the things he did to me. He ruined my career and a part of my life. He’s evil.”

Another alleged victim added: “I suffered a lot. It’s very hard for me to talk because of what he did to me. The abuses took place in hotels like the Servotel or the Kingdom. Sometimes at his place. He promised me a lot of things, even to help me find a job and money. He also helps some girls get US visas.”

One of the alleged victims has also accused Grant of supplying girls for some of the Fifa officials who attend an annual seminar in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.

“The worst thing is that he sends some referees to the Fifa instructors who are coming each year,” she said. “That’s why no one talked. What can we do or say if members of Fifa are also involved? We see Grant as powerful, even with Fifa.”

Grant did not respond to questions from the Guardian detailing the allegations made against him. “Unfortunately, I cannot speak with you, because I am discussing with another institution on this subject,” he said. “Please understand that confidentiality is required. Sorry.”

Guerrier, who has served as the FHF’s executive secretary for several years, did not respond to allegations that he blackmailed girls into having sex with him so they would be granted visas to travel to the United States. “The Fifa ethics committee has already asked me questions about the allegations of abuse of the FHF, and it’s confidential, I’m sorry.”

One of his alleged victims said: “The federation uses the passport and the US visa to obtain what they want from us. In Haiti, obtaining a visa to the US is everything and these people can help on that. They know how important it is for young people to go abroad, so if you want the visa …”She added: “The federation usually keeps the players’ passports without their consents. For example, Guerrier told one of the girls that he would have to have sex with her before giving her passport and a recommendation letter to go get a visa. Fenelus is also involved in sexually abusing these young girls – he asked me several times to have sex with him and I [would] obtain my passport.”

Fifa said it is “aware of the ongoing allegations and a full investigation is currently ongoing together with relevant national and international authorities”.