‘Overwhelming evidence that Warner and Bin Hammam involved in bribes’: FIFA Ethics Committee
FIFA’s ethics committee has ruled that there is "comprehensive, convincing and overwhelming evidence" that Mohamed Bin Hammam and Jack Warner colluded in the payment of bribes to Caribbean football officials.
The ethics committee’s report, which prompted a full investigation into the allegations, found there was a “compelling” prima facie case that Bin Hammam was engaged in an act of bribery, and that Warner was “an accessory to corruption”.
The revelation of the ethics committee’s findings comes two days after Warner resigned as a Fifa vice president, which prompted the governing body to drop its investigation into him and declare that "the presumption of innocence is maintained".
In fact the findings against Warner states that there is “prima facie” evidence that bribes were paid, and concludes that it is likely that Warner and Bin Hammam were involved in an attempt to buy influence ahead of the Fifa presidential election, in which the Qatari was a candidate.
It is understood that the ethics committee’s findings were sent to Mr Warner last week, three days before he resigned from all football posts.
The ethics committee findings were compiled by Namibian judge Petrus Damuseb, who based his report on a evidence prepared by US attorneys on behalf of Fifa executive committee member Chuck Blazer, and following evidence given by Warner and Bin Hammam in personal hearings at the end of May.
The allegations focus on a special meeting of the Caribbean Football Union in Trinidad on May 10-11, at which it is claimed delegates from up to 25 nations were offered $40,000 in cash to vote for Bin Hammam in the presidential election.
Four nations, led by the Bahamas, offered witness statements to the Blazer inquiry stating that they were offered the money and that Warner told them that it was from Bin Hammam, and was linked to the presidential election.
Both men denied the allegations but were provisionally suspended from Fifa and a full investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh was launched. Both Warner and Bin Hammam are scheduled to be interviewed in Zurich as part of the investigation, perhaps before the end of the month, though Warner has said he will not speak to Freeh.
Warner, then the president of the CFU, arranged the Trinidad meeting at Bin Hammam’s request because the Qatari wanted to address delegates about his presidential campaign.
Bin Hammam claimed that he was unable to speak to them at the Concacaf congress a week earlier in Miami because of visa problems, but according to Blazer the Qatari expressly requested a separate meeting.
The ethics committee concluded that the witness statements of the Caribbean football officials and Blazer were credible. Warner’s evidence to the ethics committee is described as “self-serving” and it found that he failed to provide … a plausible” explanation as to why the witnesses would have lied.
The report states: "The comprehensive, convincing and overwhelming evidence permits to conclude prima facie that the accused [Warner] has initiated and arranged a special meeting of the CFU member associations for Mr Bin Hammam.
"Furthermore on the occasion of this meeting it seems Mr Bin Hammam offered, at least indirectly and under the pledge of secrecy, to each of the member associations an envelope containing USD 40,000.
"The FIFA ethics committee is of the primary opinion that the accused [Warner] had knowledge of the respective payments and condoned them.
"It seems quite likely that the accused [Warner] contributed himself to the relevant actions, thereby acting as an accessory to corruption."
The report adds: "The committee is also of the opinion that the respective money gifts can probably only be explained if they are associated with the FIFA presidential elections of 1 June 2011.
"Therefore it appears rather compelling to consider the actions of Mr Bin Hammam constitute prima facie an act of bribery, or at least an attempt to commit bribery.”
The report states that it was “inconceivable” that Warner “would not have known anything about the money offered to the attendees of the meeting concerned.”
"It appears prima facie impossible, in the opinion of the FIFA ethics committee, that the accused [Warner] could have considered the money distributed ... as legally or ethically proper and without any connection to the upcoming FIFA presidential election.
"Consequently, the accused [Warner] would at least be considered as an accessory to the aforementioned violations."
In a statement Bin Hammam re-stated his denial of any involvement in improper conduct.
“There is nothing I can say more than I deny the allegations and insist that I have not done anything wrong during special Congress at Trinidad,” he said.
Warner had not responded to a request for comment at time of publication but earlier this week said he was convinced that he would be cleared of any wrongdoing.
“I am convinced, and I am advised by Counsel, that since my actions did not extend beyond facilitating the meeting that gave Mr Bin Hammam an opportunity to pursue his aborted bid for the FIFA presidency, I would be fully exonerated by any objective arbiter,” he said.