Sat, Dec

FIFA vice-president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) special advisor Jack Warner emerged unscathed from a FIFA meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, yesterday that "discussed" his violation of the global organisation's Code of Ethics.

A FIFA release stated that Warner, who was declared guilty of a conflict of interest last month by the Committee for Ethics and Fair Play, satisfied his peers by "ensuring that Simpaul obeyed the ticketing rules and regulations and finally with him and his wife leaving the company"

The Express reported yesterday, in a column by this writer, that Warner had removed his name as well as that of his wife, Maureen, and sons Daryan and Darryl, from the directorship of Simpaul's Travel Service at the Legal Affairs Ministry last week.

Warner's actions obviously impressed the FIFA Executive Committee. A pronouncement of political strength from the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), which insisted that 30 football associations supported the Trinidad and Tobago administrator, may also have helped.

FIFA's tone yesterday contrasted with its initial position on February 15 although that decision was taken by a different committee to the one who discussed Warner's indiscretion over the past 48 hours.

The Committee for Ethics and Fair Play ruled last month that Warner "violated FIFA's Code of Ethics" by his involvement with Simpaul's Travel which had struck a deal with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) to monopolise the sale of the country's 2006 World Cup tickets.

But the Executive Committee, which counts Warner as a senior member, yesterday referred to the initial verdict as "advice", a term Warner himself repeatedly used in the wake of last month's pronouncement.

If Warner displayed a change of heart by apologising for the conflict of interest and legally distancing himself from Simpaul's Travel-the new owners are Princess Campbell and Margaret Fletcher-then FIFA could also be credited with shifting its stance.

Four weeks ago, Warner was the first Executive Committee member to have infringed upon its Code of Ethics in FIFA's history. Yesterday, he was just a misguided employee who has since taken advice from his peers on board.

The case, according to the FIFA release, is now closed.

The latest Zurich decision was no surprise after FIFA refused to study new information regarding other potential conflicts of interests raised by local Housing Minister Keith Rowley.

Rowley pointed to Warner's involvement in the construction of four new stadia and the renovation of the Hasely Crawford Stadium for the 2001 World Youth Championship, which was held in Trinidad and Tobago.

The then UNC government - of which Warner is now the deputy political leader - backed a loan arrangement worth $365 million that was made between CONCACAF and the funders RGM.

It was later learned that the CONCACAF that received taxpayers' money without tender supposedly on behalf of FIFA was not officially affiliated to the global body but actually a local company listing Warner as its head.

Warner was also paid $6 million as "advice for the project" while the company set up to execute contracts was called the "FIFA Stadia Project" and included his son, Daryan, and accountant Kenny Rampersad among its signatories. At present , Rowley claims, the loan costs taxpayers $4 million a month.

FIFA press officer John Schumacher refused comment though and suggested that all questions regarding the stadia project be directed to the 2001 tournament's Local Organising Committee (LOC). The 2001 LOC was chaired by Warner.

"We don't care," Beckenbauer told the Express last month. "It's not our business."

Warner, who serves on eight FIFA committees, was equally unimpressed with the furore at the time.

"I'm not trembling in my shoes," said Warner, at the Trinidad Hilton on February 20. "I have been associated with all kinds of memories before, and it wouldn't be the last time, it won't be the first time It hasn't fazed me in the least.

"And believe me, I am okay. I'll land on my feet."

A legal shuffle, a show of Caribbean political solidarity and a new FIFA committee to answer to meant that Warner was as good as his word.