Fifa enters uncharted territory
A clearer picture of the allegations faced by Fifa presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam and his fellow executive committee member Jack Warner - and how they surfaced - is starting to emerge.
According to sources I've spoken to, the initial alarm was raised by one Caribbean football official who was offered but refused cash to finance football development projects in their country.
Following the meeting of the 30 members of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) on 10 and 11 May in Trinidad - a meeting where Bin Hammam presented his case to be president - this anonymous whistleblower took his concerns to the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf), the overall governing body for football in the region on May 15.
The general secretary of that confederation is the American Chuck Blazer. Despite his long standing ties to Warner - who is Concacaf president and effectively his boss - Blazer called in Concacaf's outside legal counsel, John Collins, a partner at the Chicago based law firm Collins and Collins.
It is understood he then conducted interviews with other officials from Caribbean FAs, some of whom signed sworn affidavits backing up what the first witness had told Concacaf. Photographic evidence of money changing hands is also reported to form part of the dossier put together by Collins but I have not been able to independently verify that.
Warner and Bin Hammam have been called to a hearing on 29 May. Photo: AP
But one of the so far unexplained elements of the affair has been the role of the two CFU officials Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester. Like Warner and Bin Hammam they have also been charged with breaking Fifa's ethics code and have been asked to appear before the ethics committee on Sunday.
Although they appear to be junior members of the CFU staff, sources claim they were the ones who actually distributed the money to the officials.
I spoke last night with Angenie Kanhai, the general secretary of the CFU. She says neither Minguell nor Sylvester have any knowledge of what is being alleged and vouched for their 'good characters'.
Kanhai, like Warner and Bin Hammamn, suggested the whole scandal was part of a political plot to discredit the Qatari's chances of winning against the current president Sepp Blatter in next Wednesday's election. A spokesman for Blatter has privately denied these counter claims saying he only returned to Zurich from Japan on Tuesday morning and was completely in the dark about the allegations coming out of the Caribbean.
Whatever the motives behind this dramatic turn of events, one thing is clear: This is now the most serious crisis Fifa has ever had to face.
Few at Fifa house expected the bombshell Blazer delivered on Monday morning. Most thought the American had just arrived in Zurich early for a series of committee meetings leading up to next week's congress involving all 208 Fifa members.
Instead he handed over John Collins' file forcing general secretary Jerome Valcke to react quickly and by lunchtime yesterday the ethics committee investigation had been called for Sunday.
Even for an organisation which has been under siege from corruption allegations - nine of the executive committee have faced claims of wrongdoing in the last six months - we are now into uncharted territory.
If proven these claims even go beyond the Salt Lake City scandal in the late 1990s which forced the International Olympic Committee to reform.
That affair involved two officials from the Salt Lake bid team for the 2002 Winter Games spending millions of dollars on perks for IOC members including all-expense-paid ski trips, scholarships, real estate deals, jobs for relatives of IOC members and even plastic surgery. But while there was the suspicion of direct cash bribes, nothing was ever proven.
These Fifa allegations do involve cash and are again more serious because, unlike Salt Lake City, these alleged bribes are said to be coming from Fifa members, not outsiders trying to win favour and votes in a bidding contest.
And as things stand today we still don't know if this is just the beginning of something far more serious.
Will Bin Hammam now retaliate with his own claims to the ethics committee about Blatter and or other Fifa executives? The atmosphere in Zurich over the coming days will be poisonous as decades of simmering resentment and dark politics finally boil to the surface.
The scene at the end of Reservoir Dogs comes to mind, when everyone ends up pointing guns at each other's heads.
The question now is can Blatter - a president who in 13 years in charge of Fifa has shown no appetite to clean up or make the governing body more transparent - use this crisis to push through sweeping changes to the organisation?
Or will his credibility be shot to pieces too - especially if he tries to press ahead with the election?
In a week when every football fan should be focusing on the spectacle of a European showpiece final between Manchester United and Barcelona it is deeply disturbing that the attention is instead drawn, once again, to the conduct of the men who run world football.