Ex-FIFA Jack Warner Threatens "Avalanche" Of Revelations About The Football Body & Sepp Blatter
Just days after FIFA President Sepp Blatter resigned from his longstanding leadership role in soccer's governing body, in the wake of an ongoing corruption scandal, things looks set to get even worse for the man who was formerly soccer's most-powerful figure. In a Thursday interview, former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner threatened to spill secrets implicating Blatter in FIFA’s alleged endemic corruption, which is currently the subject of investigation by the FBI and Swiss prosecutors. Warner, a politician and businessman from Trinidad and Tobago, is one of 14 men — including nine FIFA officials — charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with running a criminal enterprise and taking more than $150 million in bribes.
Warner, recipient of an INTERPOL red notice, spent last Wednesday night behind bars in Trinidad. Released on bail, Warner gave an interview that was aired on local television Thursday, and in which he claimed to have documents that could prove Blatter had intervened in Trinidad's 2010 elections. "Blatter knows why he fell. And if anyone else knows, I do," Warner said in his lengthy and somewhat incoherent statements, released under the title, "The Gloves Are Off." In a dramatic flourish, Warner said, "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."
Although Warner’s allegations (in which he cited documents that “deal with my knowledge of international transactions at FIFA, including — but not limited to — its president, Mr. Sepp Blatter”) are as-yet unsubstantiated and unverified, several law enforcement officials told The New York Times this week that Blatter was indeed under investigation for his role in FIFA’s shady dealings. Blatter, who is still acting as FIFA’s president until a meeting can be held to elect a new leader (most likely at the end of the year), has not yet responded to Warner’s allegations.
Warner, of course, has problems of his own. In his Thursday address, he also claimed to feel threatened, saying, “I reasonably and surely fear for my life.” The charges leveled against him include racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering — although he has denied all of them. South Africa’s soccer association may have a different story: earlier this week, it said a payment of $10 million was made by South Africa to a body led by Warner in 2004 (the year the country won the bidding to hold the 2010 World Cup).
The U.S. indictment alleges that this money was given to Warner in exchange for votes, but South African officials have insisted that the sum was not a bribe, but rather a contribution towards a regional soccer development fund. A recently released plea statement made by former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer in 2013 testifies that soccer executives did indeed accept bribes from South Africa. The $750,000 Blazer received came directly from Warner, the DOJ alleges — and was Blazer’s share in the takings that resulted from Warner’s alleged promise to vote for South Africa to host the World Cup.
Meanwhile, in his interview Thursday, Warner did not offer any explanation as to why FIFA, or Blatter, would wish to influence elections in Trinidad and Tobago. This omission did not prevent him for utilizing impassioned rhetoric. “I will no longer keep secrets for them who now seek to destroy the country which I love,” Warner said Thursday, referring to himself at one stage as a “lone, isolated soldier.”
What the truth is, only time (and the FBI) will tell. But it is, perhaps, safe to say that Warner is not known for his unwavering commitment to the truth. In 2011, Warner stepped away from his soccer-related activities after he was plagued by bribery allegations. His later resignation as Trinidad and Tobago’s security minister came in the midst of a fraud inquiry.
Blatter, who has denied his involvement in any corrupt dealings, offered his resignation earlier this week, only days after being re-elected for a fifth term. “Although the members of FIFA have given me the new mandate, this mandate does not seem to be supported by everybody in the world of football,” he said, in a speech announcing the move.
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