Jack Warner Prom­ises Rev­e­la­tions on Sepp Blat­ter and Oth­ers

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL -

Hot on the heels of the pub­li­ca­tion of for­mer U.S. soc­cer chief Chuck Blazer’s guilty plea, an­other of the for­mer FIFA of­fi­cials in­dicted on bribery charges says he’s ready to sing.

Drop­ping a bomb­shell in a hastily-con­vened ap­pear­ance on lo­cal TV late Wed­nes­day, Jack Warner, the for­mer head of the Trinidad & Tobago soc­cer as­so­ci­a­tion and the re­gional CON­CA­CAF, promised an “avalanche” of rev­e­la­tions, in­clud­ing some about FIFA’s soon-to-be-ex-Pres­i­dent Sepp Blat­ter, that “not even death will stop.”

“I will give them my knowl­edge of fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions at FIFA, in­clud­ing, but not limited to, Sepp Blat­ter,” Warner said.

Blat­ter had re­signed on Mon­day, de­spite be­ing re­elected for a record fifth term at last week’s FIFA congress. How­ever, he in­di­cated he wanted to stay on in an in­terim role un­til the end of the year to over­see the tran­si­tion to new lead­er­ship.

The rev­e­la­tions are com­ing thick and fast now as the U.S. in­ves­ti­ga­tion into years of al­leged cor­rup­tion at the gov­ern­ing body of world soc­cer gath­ers mo­men­tum. Although the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has fo­cused so far on Blat­ter’s lieu­tenants, the New York Times re­ported on Wed­nes­day that the FBI is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing the man who has ruled FIFA for 20 years.

The pres­sure on 72 year-old Warner – who de­nies charges on a to­tal of seven counts of con­spir­acy, wire fraud and money laun­der­ing – is par­tic­u­larly in­tense: two of his sons are among those who have al­ready pleaded guilty to the U.S. at­tor­ney’s charge. Warner was one of six FIFA and sports mar­ket­ing of­fi­cials added to Interpol’s wanted list on Wed­nes­day.

Later on Wed­nes­day, Chuck Blazer’s guilty plea had been un­sealed, re­veal­ing for the first time al­le­ga­tions that bribes had also been traded for the right to host the 1998 World Cup in France. The in­ves­ti­ga­tions had pre­vi­ously men­tioned only the 2018 and 2022 tour­na­ments in Rus­sia and Qatar, re­spec­tively.

Ev­i­dence had al­ready emerged at the week­end that Blat­ter’s deputy, Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Jérôme Val­cke, had been di­rectly in­volved in a sus­pect pay­ment of $10 mil­lion to the CON­CA­CAF fed­er­a­tion that Warner headed. Both Warner and the South African Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion deny al­le­ga­tions that it was a bribe in re­turn for let­ting South Africa host the 2010 tour­na­ment. FIFA had de­nied Val­cke had any­thing to do with the pay­ment.

As the in­ves­ti­ga­tion spreads wider and aims higher, it is also be­com­ing in­creas­ingly politi­cised. Al­ready Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin has ac­cused it of be­ing a U.S. con­spir­acy to dis­credit his coun­try and oth­ers while Qatar’s For­eign Min­is­ter told Reuters his coun­try was the vic­tim of a racist, anti-Is­lamic cam­paign by the west­ern me­dia.

Sus­pi­cions of a po­lit­i­cal­ly­mo­ti­vated mission creep may have been stoked on Wed­nes­day when the White House al­lowed it­self to be dragged into the con­tro­versy.

“It’s ap­par­ent from re­cent news re­ports that they’d ben­e­fit from some new lead­er­ship,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a brief­ing.

“This is an op­por­tu­nity for that or­ga­ni­za­tion to try to im­prove their public im­age and to make sure that the ac­tions of that or­ga­ni­za­tion are con­sis­tent with their mission,” Earnest said.

With ob­vi­ous bit­ter­ness, Warner added that he had writ­ten to the em­bat­tled Swiss supremo im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards, say­ing that “I em­pathise with you be­cause in 2011, I was where you are to­day. The only dif­fer­ence is that you caused my demise. I didn’t cause yours.”

Sepp Blat­ter and Jack Warner in bet­ter times.

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