The shocking scale of sexual abuse allegations at Haiti’s national football centre has been documented in a Fifa report that outlines why Yves Jean-Bart has been banned from football for life. Thirty-four alleged victims of sexual abuse at the centre by 10 possible perpetrators and accomplices including Jean-Bart, the former football federation president who has consistently denied the allegations, were identified in a report by the players’ union Fifpro to Fifa’s ethics committee.
The Fifpro report formed part of the investigation into alleged abuses by Jean-Bart, first revealed by the Guardian, at the Centre Technique National in Croix-des-Bouquets. It claimed that 14 of the 34 were alleged victims of Jean-Bart himself.
The ethics committee’s adjudicatory chamber concluded that Jean-Bart, who ruled Haitian football for more than two decades, had committed acts of “unprecedented gravity”.
“Mr Jean-Bart’s behaviour is simply inexcusable, a disgrace for any football official,” the chairperson of the adjudicatory chamber, Mr Vassilios Skouris, said. “The pain and suffering he has caused his various victims of sexual harassment and abuse cannot even be fully comprehended, and represents a very dark stain on the image and reputation of football as a sport loved by so many.
“While claiming he was developing Haitian football, in particular women’s competitions and teams, Mr Jean-Bart did the exact opposite: he abused his position in order to satisfy his personal attitude of domination over the most fragile people, destroying the careers and lives of young promising female players.”
After allegations of sexual abuse by Jean-Bart were published by the Guardian in April, Fifa’s ethics committee conducted a detailed investigation lasting almost six months that included hiring an independent IT consultancy company to use Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) techniques to validate some of the alleged victims’ claims using mobile phone data. According to the decision of the adjudicatory chamber, that enabled investigators to corroborate several occasions where “young female players visited the [hotel], one of the alleged locations where the sexual abuse apparently occurred”.
In the final report from the investigatory chamber, the panel heard statements from two alleged victims of Jean-Bart, one of whom detailed her experiences after being selected to play for Haiti Under-17s. “President Yves Jean-Bart called me on the phone to ask me to come and see him,” she said. “When he arrived he gave me a pack of panties. I said ‘thank you’ and when it was time to leave he offered me to stay with him in his room. He told me to stay with him and suddenly pulled me towards him. And I pushed him and he fell on his bed. And back at the centre, it was as if I no longer exist in the eyes of everyone.”
Another alleged victim described when she had to sit next to Jean-Bart in the back of a car. “Throughout the trip, Mr Jean-Bart kept touching me,” she said. “And I always pushed him away to leave me alone. From that day on, every time he sees me on the court he never stops telling me that I will never progress to the centre and he will never lift a finger in my favour to help me in anything.”
The Fifpro report alleged that there was “sufficient evidence” to suggest the centre “was being used as enticement for minor football players coming from poor backgrounds who were groomed and threatened into sexual abuse”.
Fifa’s three-person panel was also of the opinion that the allegations of sexual abuse “seem to be of a more cooperate/cartel organisation”.
Jean-Bart has consistently protested his innocence and last month reiterated in a Daily Mail interview his plan to take his case to the court of arbitration for sport. He argued in his closing oral statement to the panel that “in Haiti there is no ‘culture of rape’ or of sexual abuse”. But the panel found that his claim the FHF was “being robbed as a consequence of the ‘plot’ against him” was “very difficult to conceive”.
“In summary, the panel considers that the final report prepared by the investigatory chamber is based on solid evidence, gathered from distinct sources … as well as reputed media outlets [such] as the Guardian and the New York Times. In the view of the panel, after examining such evidence, as well as the position expressed by Mr Jean-Bart, it is highly implausible, and even impossible, that such a diverse group of individuals and entities, from all over the world, could be involved, let alone design, an extremely complex and detailed plot, by providing extensive, congruent and consistent testimony, at various levels and times during the investigation conducted by the Fifa ethics committee.”
The panel’s decision determined that Jean-Bart had been involved in “sexual abuse of female players, including minors, who were or are residing in the centre”.
Fifa fined Jean-Bart 1m Swiss francs (£827,000) and banned him from all football-related activities for life. Skouris said Jean-Bart’s conduct “had revealed a pattern of not only disrespect for [the] core values” of Fifa’s code of ethics “but also human dignity”.
“With regard to the circumstances of the case, the adjudicatory chamber emphasises that several of its aspects render the case at hand to be of unprecedented gravity,” Skouris said. “Mr Jean-Bart sexually abused various female players, including and in particular minors, using threats, coercion, as well as gifts and the promise of advantages (of a sportive or financial nature) on those who refused to accept his advances. The sexual harassment/assault and abusive conduct was repeated and, in fact, part of a systematic treatment to which female players were subjected at the centre.”
In December, Fifa appointed a normalisation committee for the FHF after it found “strong indications” that Jean-Bart was still exerting his influence despite his ban.
The report said: “It must also be borne in mind that Mr Jean-Bart committed the offences over a course of several years, (at least) between 2014 and 2020, and that the situation was kept hidden due to a well-implemented system of ‘omertà’ or code of silence, under which the victims and witnesses were silenced through extreme pressure and coercions, not only by Mr Jean-Bart, but also his network of accomplices in the FHF and the centre (some of which were facilitators, and some possibly perpetrators of sexual abuse themselves).
“It was due to the exposure created by the media and various NGOs involved in the fight against sexual harassment and the protection of human rights, and the bravery of some of the victims and witnesses, who decided to speak out despite fearing for repercussions, that the matter was discovered and could be investigated and prosecuted.”
A spokesperson for Jean-Bart said: “Repeating false and salacious allegations to foreign journalists and a bureaucratic committee within Fifa does not make them true, and Dr Jean-Bart continues to maintain his innocence.
“Fifa played right into the hands of the president’s detractors by hurriedly pushing out Dr Jean-Bart despite a lack of evidence and being cleared by actual investigators in Haiti.
“Because judicial systems and courts of law rely on facts and proof rather than politically motivated rumours, Dr Jean-Bart believes he will be cleared of wrongdoing when his case is examined before the court of arbitration for sport.”