Monday 19 February 2018

Warner pledges to blow whistle on Fifa bribes

Football body's disgraced former vice-president says avalanche of revelations will go all the way to Blatter

Jack Warner holds up a cheque during his Trinidad press conference.
Jack Warner holds up a cheque during his Trinidad press conference.
Sepp Blatter

Rachael Alexander in Los Angeles

Jack Warner, the former vice- president of Fifa, promised to unleash an "avalanche" of revelations about corruption, going all the way to Sepp Blatter in an extraordinary televised outburst yesterday.

Mr Warner, one of 14 football officials and sports media executives charged with corruption by US authorities last week, said he had documents implicating Mr Blatter and other Fifa members in the 2010 political election in his home country, Trinidad and Tobago.

He said he feared for his life, but that "the gloves are off". He said: "I will no longer keep secrets for them who actively seek to destroy this country's hard-won international image."

He claimed he had statements and copies of cheques that amounted to a "comprehensive and detailed" dossier showing "international transactions" that linked Mr Blatter and others at Fifa to his country's elections. Mr Warner also said in the broadcast, which was a paid political advertisement, that "I reasonably actually fear for my life."

He later told a rally of his Independent Liberal Party: "Not even death will stop the avalanche that is coming. The die is cast. There can be no turning back. Let the chips fall where they fall. Blatter knows why he fell. And if anyone else knows, I do - I apologise for not disclosing my knowledge of these events before."

Mr Warner, who resigned from all of his positions within football in 2011 after becoming mired in bribery and corruption investigations, has previously promised a "tsunami" of evidence against Fifa without ultimately disclosing anything.

Meanwhile, another top Fifa official and key witness, American Chuck Blazer, has admitted accepting bribes.

The admissions came in a newly released transcript of Mr Blazer's guilty plea from 2013, as part of a wide-ranging US criminal case that has engulfed Fifa and led president Mr Blatter to resign.

The US justice department alleges the 14 people charged worldwide accepted bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150m (€135m) over a 24-year period. Four others have already been charged, including Mr Blazer.

Meanwhile, Mr Blatter said that he has already started working on ways to clean up the sport's governing body.

Mr Blatter, who announced his decision to resign on Tuesday as the Fifa corruption crisis continues to build, tweeted a photo of himself sitting in a leather chair with a light blue jacket and no tie.

"Working hard on reforms after meeting Audit & Compliance Committee Independent Chairman Scala," Mr Blatter wrote, along with a link to a statement released by Fifa.

A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, has said that the 79-year-old Mr Blatter is a target of the investigation. Mr Blatter has not been officially implicated in the case. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.

In his statement yesterday, Mr Blatter said he met with Fifa audit panel chairman Domenico Scala "to establish a framework for action and a timetable" for his final months.

He made no mention of his status as a target of the US investigation. Instead, he kept the short statement focused on reforming an organisation he has presided over for 17 years.

In a separate investigation, Swiss authorities are looking into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests won by Russia and Qatar.

In his resignation speech on Tuesday, Mr Blatter promised a final round of modernising reforms before leaving office. That includes finding a date for a presidential election by next March. He also pledged to bring in term limits for his successor and Fifa executive committee members.

Separately last night, Tokyo Sexwale, a member of the organising committee for South Africa's World Cup in 2010, questioned whether a $10m payment to the Caribbean Football Union was used properly.

"The question is did the money go to the right place?" Mr Sexwale, a member of Fifa's anti-racism and anti-discrimination task force and its media committee, said by phone from Moscow. "Who did it go to?"

South African sports minister Fikile Mbalula said that the payment was a means to fund soccer development in Caribbean nations and wasn't a bribe. US authorities said last week in an indictment that Mr Warner, the longtime head of the Caribbean, Central and North American soccer confederation, took a $10m payoff from South Africa to vote for its bid to host the 2010 World Cup.

The US indictment also says two members of South Africa's bid committee, which Mr Sexwale was a member of, were co-conspirators in the corruption, racketeering and money-laundering case. One of them allegedly flew to Paris to hand over a briefcase filled with $10,000 bundles, which was destined for Mr Warner.

Because South Africa was unable to arrange the payment, it asked soccer's governing body to withhold $10m from its World Cup allocation and transfer the money to accounts controlled by Mr Warner, according to the US indictment.

Irish Independent

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