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Friday 9 December 2016

Jack Warner hands himself in as FIFA raided on football's day of shame

FBI agents bring out boxes after an operation inside the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) offices in Miami Beach, Florida May 27, 2015
FBI agents bring out boxes after an operation inside the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) offices in Miami Beach, Florida May 27, 2015
Trinidad and Tobago's former National Security Minister and former FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner

Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner turned himself over to police in Trinidad and Tobago shortly after they issued an arrest warrant at the request of authorities in the US, where he was one of 14 people indicted on corruption charges.

Warner appeared in court, where a judge read 12 charges against him and then granted him $2.5 million bail on certain conditions, including that he surrender his passport and report to police twice a week. Warner did not enter a plea and is scheduled to appear in court again on July 12.

READ MORE: Long history of FIFA corruption which has shamed football

His court appearance came after a day of drama. The attorney general’s office in Trinidad and Tobago said it had been working with the US Justice Department for about a year on the investigation of Warner, who was forced out of FIFA in 2011 over a bribery scandal.

Warner, who is an opposition member of parliament in the twin-island nation, can be extradited to the US under a bilateral treaty following a hearing.

Earlier in the day, Warner denied wrongdoing, as he has previously when confronted with allegations that he enriched himself while a FIFA official and as a president of Concacaf, the federation’s North American regional organisation.

READ MORE: VISA threatens to end sponsorship with World Cup over FIFA arrests

UEFA has called for tomorrow’s election of a new president for football’s world governing body to be postponed after nine officials were accused of breeding decades of “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption.

The hard-hitting allegations were made by US authorities, raising questions over the organisation’s presidential election and the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar.

A separate Swiss investigation has been launched into possible criminal mismanagement of the allocations of these.

The FIFA officials, including vice-president Jeffrey Webb, Warner and seven others, have been charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies in connection with an alleged “24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer”, the US justice department said.

In light of the charges, FIFA’s ethics committee banned 11 people who are now being prosecuted from carrying out any football-related activities.

Hans-Joachim Eckert, chairman of FIFA’s adjudicatory chamber of the Ethics Committee, said: “The charges are clearly related to football and are of such a serious nature that it was imperative to take swift and immediate action..”

UEFA said yesterday’s events show, “once again, that corruption is deeply rooted in FIFA’s culture”.

It claimed the FIFA Congress is at risk of turning into a “farce” and European associations will have to “consider carefully” if they should attend.

“In the meantime, the members of the UEFA executive committee are convinced that there is a strong need for a change to the leadership of this FIFA and strongly believe that the FIFA Congress should be postponed, with new FIFA presidential elections to be organised within the next six months.”

The scandal is threatening the collapse of lucrative World Cup sponsorship deals.

Visa threatened to break off its contract while other global brands such as Nike, adidas and Budweiser issued strongly-worded statements putting pressure on FIFA to take immediate action to restore its tattered reputation.

Visa said its “disappointment and concern” was “profound” as it warned FIFA to begin changes immediately.

It said: “Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement – and it is important that FIFA makes changes now, so that the focus remain on these going forward.

JackWarner.jpg
Jack Warner

“Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, now under a fierce spotlight though he is not one of those arrested, issued a statement claiming that the bombshell legal actions are a positive step.

Despite years of negative headlines, Mr Blatter (79), who is the overwhelming favourite to win a fifth term of office, added: “As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the US and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football.

“While there will be many who are frustrated with the pace of change, I would like to stress the actions that we have taken and will continue to take. In fact, today’s action by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General was set in motion when we submitted a dossier to the Swiss authorities late last year.”

Reports later stated that Swiss authorities would prevent any Swiss nationals working for FIFA, Blatter among them, from leaving the country.

During his 17-year tenure there have been numerous corruption allegations surrounding FIFA officials but he still holds the formal backing from the Asian, African and South American confederations.

The defendants also include US and South American sports marketing executives who the department said “are alleged to have systematically paid and agreed to pay well over US$150m (€138m) in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments”.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the 47-strong count charge sheet alleges corruption that is “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States”.

Events that were influenced by corruption included the award of the 2010 World Cup to South Africa and the 2011 FIFA presidential election, she said.

Extradition would be the next step in the legal process so those charged could face prosecution in the US. The guilty pleas of four individual and two corporate defendants were revealed by the US yesterday. The Swiss police also raided the headquarters of FIFA in Zurich yesterday where it gathered data and documents as part of their investigation into “irregularities” surrounding the major tournaments.

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