FIFA yesterday suspended executive committee members Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner over bribery allegations, while completely exonerating president Sepp Blatter in the gravest corruption crisis facing football’s world governing body.
“We are satisfied there is a case to be answered,” Petrus Damaseb, deputy chairman of the Ethics Committee, told a news conference at FIFA’s Swiss headquarters. In an immediate response, Warner accused the FIFA Ethics Committee of an “abuse of process” and accused FIFA president Sepp Blatter of making a gift of US$1 million to CONCACAF to spend “as it deems fit.”
Warner, FIFA executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam and two Caribbean Football Union (CFU) officials, Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester, were all issued with provisional suspensions, pending a full investigation, which is expected to start in July.
Warner, in his statement, vowed to offer a vigorous defence of himself and Caribbean officials, Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester, who were also suspended. The ethics panel said there was sufficient evidence to further investigate allegations that bin Hammam and Warner, the CONCACAF president, offered US$40,000 bribes to delegates at a Caribbean Football Union meeting, held at the Hyatt hotel in Port-of-Spain, on May 10-11.
The payments were allegedly made to secure votes for bin Hammam, a Qatari who heads Asia’s football confederation, in his campaign to unseat Blatter. The evidence was compiled by American executive committee member Chuck Blazer, who serves as CONCACAF general secretary and treasurer.
Blazer’s allegations against Warner appeared to find support in an e-mail sent by Puerto Rico’s Football Association to FIFA general secretary, Jerome Valcke, yesterday afternoon, during the Ethics Committee news conference. In the e-mail, the Puerto Rican officials said they were given US$40,000.
“We would bring back the money to FIFA with a check, which would be part of the evidence to be presented to the Ethics Committee.” FIFA said bin Hammam and Warner, who serves as the Works and Transport Minister and has acted as Prime Minister, will now face a full FIFA inquiry.
If found guilty, they could be expelled from FIFA and banned for life from all football activity. Bin Hammam said the suspension was “unfortunate but this is where we are—this is FIFA.” Bin Hammam, who denied any wrongdoing, had asked the ethics panel to investigate Blatter on grounds that he knew of alleged bribe attempts and did nothing about it.
But Damaseb said the five-man panel received “lots of confirmation from every individual conceivable” that there was no evidence to take action against Blatter, who had been in office since 1998. Warner called his suspension an abuse of the process, in a statement issued after the decision was handed down by the FIFA Ethics Committee.
“I intend to say a lot more on this matter shortly,” he said. “In the meantime, I will vigorously defend my reputation as well as the reputation of the rest of the Caribbean members.” Warner expressed disappointment with the way the inquiry was carried out. He said he was given less than 24 hours to submit a statement for consideration by the five-member committee.
Additionally, he said, a member from Uruguay did not have the value of a translated version of his or bin Hammam’s submission. “This lack of translation services brings into question the issue of due process,” he said. “In addition, FIFA did not have the courtesy to provide me with copies of the allegations before the hearing and only during the hearing were the allegations read to me.”
Warner, a 28-year veteran at FIFA’s high table, has maintained his innocence in the face of the committee ruling that there was a case to be answered. He alleged, in his statement, that the complaints made against him were politically motivated and “designed, among other things, to cause serious prejudice and damage to both Mr bin Hammam and myself at one of the most critical times for the FIFA.”
The sidelined FIFA vice-president said he was also shocked and surprised that he had to learn about his suspension through the media, especially having specifically requested, after leaving the Ethics Committee hearing, that he be notified of the body’s decision. Warner has warned that a “football tsunami” would be unleashed after the findings of the FIFA panel were released.
Jack responds to FIFA ruling: Abuse of process!
• FIFA official said Qatar ‘bought the WC’ • Blatter gave ‘gifts’ too • Court: Blazer fabricated evidence in 2006
Shortly after he learnt that he had been suspended by the Fifa ethics committee for allegedly facilitating the payment of US$40,000 to regional football officials, Jack Warner, who is himself on the Fifa executive committee, issued a statement in which he unleashed some accusations of his own.
On Friday, speaking to journalists during the Parliament’s teabreak the CONCACAF president and special adviser to the T&T Football Federation had threatened a “football tsunami.”
I attended the Fifa inquiry (yesterday) at 12 noon pursuant to a request made of me by Fifa to answer allegation made by Chuck Blazer, general secretary of CONCACAF. I have learned this evening via the media that I have been provisionally suspended by the Fifa Ethics Committee.
This has come both as a shock and surprise to me. At the conclusion of the inquiry, I specifically requested that I be notified of any decision as I had learned via the media before attending the hearing that a decision would be handed down at 5 pm. Despite leaving my contact details, up to this point, I still have not received any notification from the Fifa.
At the hearing, I indicated that I submitted two written statements outlining my position. I expressed my disappointment with the way in which the inquiry was conducted as I was given less than 24 hours to submit a statement for consideration by the committee and, moreover, one of the five members of the committee is from Uruguay and did not have the value of a translated version of my or Mr bin Hammam’s submission.
This lack of translation services brings into question the issue of due process. In addition, Fifa did not have the courtesy to provide me with copies of the allegations before the hearing and it was only during the hearing were the allegations read to me.
At the hearing, among other things, I was asked about the special meeting with the CFU to hear Mr bin Hammam and whether such a meeting was normal. I indicated that President Blatter earlier this year had held a similar meeting in South Africa with 37 countries and no objections had been made of that to date.
In fact, this has been the practice of Fifa in holding meetings with member countries before elections. I denied the allegations that I made statements at the CFU meeting about gifts being given by Mr bin Hammam. I also indicated that at the Miami CONCACAF congress on May 3, Mr Blatter made a gift of US$1 million to CONCACAF to spend as it deems fit.
This annoyed president Michel Platini who was present and he approached secretary general Jerome Valcke complaining that Mr Blatter had no permission from the Finance Committee to make this gift to which Jerome replied that he will find the money for Mr Blatter.
I also indicated at the CFU meeting held in Trinidad on May 10 which was requested by Mr bin Hammam, Fifa through Mr Blatter organised gifts of laptops and projectors to all members of the Caribbean and no objections have been made today of this to date. In my statement, I attached letters from 13 federations whose members attended the CFU meeting where the allegations of gifts were made.
These statements from the 13 members denied the allegations that have been made against me and any participation of these individuals in the act complained of. While with regard to the allegation of payment only one statement was submitted by Collins & Collins.
On May 18, when I realised that the political battle between Blatter and bin Hammam was getting out of hand, I wrote secretary general Valcke, telling him, among other things, that the outcome of the elections may cause some fracture in the Arab world which we can ill-afford now and that I will like to ask bin Hammam to withdraw from the race. To which Jerome replied to me and I quote:
“For MBH, I never understood why he was running. If really he thought he had a chance or just being an extreme way to express how much he does not like anymore JSB. Or he thought you can buy Fifa as they bought the WC. I have a bet since day one, he will withdraw but on June 1 after his ten-minute speech. By doing so he can say he push Blatter to make new commitments, bla, bla bla, and get out under applause. Before means he is a looser.
So...He will get some votes. Less than 60 today after CAF support. It will be the “coup de grace” if you would officially send a message as the CONCACAF president by saying CONCACAF supports unanimously. So I am not giving you an advice but just my feeling about what I think is the situation.”
Despite the plea from SG Valcke, I refused to give any advice about how CONCACAF will be voting.
At no time during this matter was I ever contacted by Mr Blazer nor did he contact the executive or the Emergency Committee of the CONCACAF and it is informative for one to look at Mr Blazer’s credibility by referring to the report of the NY District Court judge in the matter between Master Card and Visa in the Fifa matter of December 7, 2006.
(Para 213) Mr Blazer’s testimony was generally without credibility based on his attitude and demeanor on his evasive answers on cross-examination. (Para 214) Thus, for that reason and based on his evasive answers and his attitude and demeanour, Mr Blazer’s testimony as the March 14, 2006, Marketing & TV AG Board meeting is rejected as fabricated. The complaints made in this matter are politically motivated against Mr bin Hammam and me and are designed, among other things, to cause serious prejudice and damage to both Mr bin Hammam and myself at one of the most critical times for the Fifa.
It is also shocking that at the close of an inquiry at around 5.47 pm when the decision was already delivered, new evidence in the form of a fax from the Puerto Rico FF appears making allegations which were treated as part of the evidence in this matter. This further demonstrates in the way the inquiry was conducted and the prejudice against me. The decision to suspend me is an abuse of the process and achieves no real purpose as stated in the decision and again demonstrates the bias of this inquiry.
I intend to say a lot more on this matter shortly. In the meantime, I will vigorously defend my reputation as well as the reputation of the rest of the Caribbean members.
Sgd Jack Warner
Timeline: FIFA corruption scandal in the last year
FIFA vice president, Trinidad’s Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner was yesterday provisionally suspended by the world football body, while president Sepp Blatter was cleared of any wrongdoing during his re-election campaign. Blatter’s rival Mohamed bin Hammam, who withdrew from the race hours beforehand, was also provisionally suspended. Here is a timeline of the recent corruption allegations to hit Fifa as provided by the Reuters news agency:
• Britain's Sunday Times newspaper claims two members of Fifa's executive committee, Reynald Temarii of Tahiti and Amos Adamu of Nigeria, offered to sell their votes in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting contest to undercover newspaper reporters.
• Temarii and Adamu provisionally suspended by Fifa's ethics committee, pending further investigations. Four other officials, all former executive committee members, are also provisionally suspended.
• Temarii is banned for one year and fined 5,000 Swiss francs ($5,887) for breaches of the ethics code. Adamu banned for three years and fined 10,000 Swiss francs for breaching five articles of the ethics code, including one on bribery. The four others all banned and fined.
• The ethics committee decides allegations of vote-trading between Spain/Portugal, who are bidding for 2018, and Qatar, who are bidding for 2022, are unfounded.
• Fifa dismisses allegations made by a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) program against three more executive committee members, saying the matters had already been investigated by Swiss authorities and the case was closed.
• Russia is awarded the 2018 World Cup while the 2022 tournament is controversially awarded to Qatar despite Fifa's own technical report saying that high temperatures could pose a health risk to players, officials and spectators. Temarii and Adamu are not replaced and the decision was made by only 22 members of the executive committee.
• A British parliamentary inquiry into why England failed to secure the 2018 finals told by MP Damian Collins that there was evidence from the Sunday Times newspaper that Issa Hayatou of Cameroon and Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Coast were paid by Qatar. At the same hearing, former English Football Association chairman David Triesman accuses Fifa executive committee members Jack Warner, Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolas Leoz and Worawi Makudi of asking for favours in return for their votes. Triesman alleges that Warner had requested assistance with building a football training facility in Trinidad worth US$2.5m. FIFA said yesterday that all four men have been cleared of the allegations in an independent report commissioned by the FA.
• An ethics investigation is opened into Mohamed bin Hammam, Blatter's only challenger in the Fifa presidential election on June 1, and Jack Warner. The investigation concerns a meeting of the Caribbean Football Union earlier in the month.
• Blatter is also summoned to appear before the ethics committee hearing following a request from Bin Hammam because he may have been aware of the cash payments.
• Bin Hammam withdraws his candidacy hours before the ethics committee hearing.
• An ethics committee hearing clears Blatter but provisionally suspends Bin Hammam and Warner pending a further inquiry into allegations they paid Caribbean delegates $40,000 each to vote for Bin Hammam in the election.
PM: I have not asked Jack to resign.
By Cecily Assoon (T&T Express).
There have been no findings of guilt against Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said last night as she said the Government will stand by Warner until he returns to the country and gives a full report on the latest FIFA developments which have seen him suspended.
However, the Prime Minister said she was “concerned” by allegations pending against Warner.
The Prime Minister spoke with reporters at a hastily organised media conference at Penal where she had been attending Indian Arrival Day commemorations at the constituency office of the Oropouche West MP Stacy Roopnarine.
Persad-Bissessar disclosed up to last night Warner had not tendered his resignation and she had not asked him to.
“I am fully aware that events like this involving a senior Cabinet Minister will be of immense concern to the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” she told reporters, reading from a prepared statement.
“Likewise, I am concerned by the allegations made and expect an update from Mr Warner upon his return, which he has assured he will do.”
But she added, “at this time, there is no reason for me to arrive at any conclusion regarding the allegations made against Mr Warner.
“At this time I will not prejudge the allegations against Minister Warner, and until there is evidence to the contrary, I stand by him.”
The Prime Minister said an interim suspension was not akin to guilt.
“A provisional suspension is not to be equated with a finding of guilt, far less a sentence based on a finding of wrongdoing,” she said.
“It is a fundamental tenet of the rule of law that a man is innocent until proven guilty. This right is enshrined in the constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and is an important pillar in our system of justice.”
“And so, the decision by FIFA to initiate a provisional suspension of its vice president Jack Warner, pending investigation, is not a determination of guilt but part of a process that we trust will be fair and unprejudiced. The process must now be allowed to go its full course since as I said, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
Persad-Bissessar said the Government has no knowledge of the dynamics at FIFA.
“FIFA is an international sport body that is not part of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago; we therefore have no knowledge about its procedures and the dynamics of its unique internal politics,” she said.
“It would be unfortunate if we made premature adverse judgment and pronouncement on a matter that is under investigation. This would be contrary to the spirit and letter of the laws of our land.
“A son of our soil who served this nation faithfully at that very football organisation and who was instrumental in leading Trinidad and Tobago to its very first World Cup qualification just a few years ago must be allowed every opportunity to present his case against the allegations made about him,” she said.
Questioned by reporters, the Prime Minister said she would not speculate on the outcome of the matters against Warner. She said Warner e-mailed her yesterday stating he would give a full report upon his return tomorrow.
Government Chief Whip in the House of Representatives Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday said the issue of Warner’s suspension could be discussed at the PP coalition party caucus this week, which is due to take place before Wednesday’s sitting of Parliament after Warner returns on Tuesday.
Hours after FIFA’s ethics committee at Zurich announced that it had suspended Warner pending a full investigation into allegations of bribery, Moonilal said the Government was looking at the issue “with interest” but would wait to hear Warner’s full report on the matter upon his return to Trinidad and Tobago.
Outgoing political leader of the Congress of the People, Winston Dookeran, said the situation with Warner was a “rather sticky wicket” but also said he would await a full report.
“I would like to get a full report,” he said. “But from what I have heard thus far and what has been explained to me, it looks like a rather sticky wicket.”
Dookeran said he was sure the issue of whether Warner should leave Government would be considered by the COP. Some high-ranking COP sources yesterday indicated that Warner should be made to resign.
On Friday, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said the Government would have to take action if a determination of guilt was made. Ramlogan did not respond to calls or messages yesterday.