The Soccer Desk

“You think it just happened? You forget.”

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Former CONCACAF President Jack Warner has admitted to selling CONCACAF’s thirty votes in the 1998 FIFA election to current FIFA President Sepp Blatter for $6 million USD, giving him his entire margin of victory.  This was only the most shocking admission in a nearly two hour speech given by Warner to his parliamentary constituency in Trinidad.  The full text of the speech, and exhibits, can be found here.

The speech was given in response to the CONCACAF Integrity Report, released last Friday, which accused him of multi-million dollar embezzlement from the Confederation, and which saw him compelled to step down from his position as National Security Minister of Trinidad & Tobago.  At the conclusion of the speech Warner resigned from his parliamentary seat, and promised to contest the seat in a by-election.  Warner is currently the subject of an FBI investigation.

Warner was at pains throughout the speech to claim that he never concealed anything from FIFA or CONCACAF, saying “There were no secrets, no ambiguity.”  He also documented the undeniable growth, both in size and influence, of CONCACAF during his presidency.  Warner compared the $40,000 USD in the confederation’s treasury in 1996 to the $57 million USD held by the confederation when he stepped down in 2011.  Much of his justification for his actions, pitched to the local crowd, was that they had allowed Trinidad & Tobago to qualify for the World Cup.

Warner’s speech was preceded by a twenty minute video, set to Bryan Adam’s “Everything I do,” describing Warner’s work in the T&T government.  Much of his speech referred to the currently contention domestic politics on the island.  The central portion, however, served as a shot across the bow of FIFA and CONCACAF, with veiled threats directed at Blatter, and accusations of backstabbing directed at current FIFA President Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Warner was at pains throughout the speech to point out the constituency work he had done with his own funds, failed to explain where those funds came from, since as he pointed out, he collects no parliamentary salary.

In his speech Warner detailed the development of the Center of Excellence in Port of Spain, Trinidad, a point of contention in the current ethics dispute.  According to Warner the center was built with a $6 million USD loan from then FIFA President Joao Havelange in 1996.  Whether the loan was made to CONCACAF, the Caribbean Football Union or to Warner himself remains unclear.  The land the center sites on was purchased and developed by two of Warner’s privately owned companies.   In 1998, Dr. Havelange proposed converting the loan into a gift, according to a letter to Warner from Havelange, present by Warner in his own defense.  Another letter accepting this gift, also presented by Warner, identified this as a gift to “the CFU & Jack Warner.”  CONCACAF registered as a corporation in Trinidad in 1999, and in 2000 the center was renamed the “Dr. Joao Havelange Center of Excellence.”   In both cases, Warner claims, FIFA failed to raise the point that the center was still owned by Warner’s companies.  Warner also produced invoices submitted to CONCACAF & FIFA for the use of the COE, that were paid via cashier’s checks to Warner’s companies.

Warner produced documentation and his own testimony as to how the transition of the $6 million USD loan to a gift by Dr. Havelange was done on the understanding that Warner would deliver CONCACAF’s votes as a block to Sepp Blatter, Havelange’s chosen successor for the FIFA presidency, in the 1998 election.  Warner detailed the process by this was done, and admitted how he was named a FIFA vice-president by Blatter in thanks for his effort.  As Warner said “I was Blatter’s idol, and he was mine.”  “Now we do not love each other.”

Warner also questioned the validity of CONCACAF’s investigation into his stewardship of the confederation, claiming that all of the documents he presented in his defense were available in CONCACAF’s New York offices, and asking why they were not made available to the investigatory committee.  In it’s report the committee detailed several attempts to obtain documents from Mr. Warner, all of which he refused to answer.

Warner indicated that whatever his crimes were, FIFA leadership knew of them, and was at the very least complicit in covering them up.  “My stewardship at FIFA/CONCACAF is beyond repute.How could a little country boy deceive for so long the mighty FIFA w/200 lawyers?”

Mr. Warner’s speech comes in the midst of a difficult time for FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, which is due to hold its bi-annual general congress May 31st.  Last Thursday Alexandra Wrage resigned from the Independent Governance Committee, the body charged with recommending measures for reform.  The following day saw the release of the CONCACAF Integrity Report.  On Monday it was announced that the report on the ISL Scandal by former US prosecutor Michael Garcia was to be delayed, and the following day Nicolas Leoz, President of COMENBOL and a figure closely tied to the ISL debacle, resigned from his seat on FIFA’s executive comittee.