So, while the football world focuses on the resignation of Joseph S Blatter as self-declared “president of everybody”, and (maybe) just before the words “immunity from prosecution” burst everybody’s bubble, here’s a reminder from MARK MURPHY of a week in the life of one of Blatter’s staunchest supporters. And, yes, Mark DID have to extensively bloody rewrite this at the very last minute. Thanks Sepp.
Of all the names on the United States Department of Justice indictment of FIFA officials, Jack Warner’s brings the biggest smile to my face. The repugnant Warner, erstwhile FIFA vice-president, Central American CONCACAF region and Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) ”special advisor”, was once targeted by pro and anti-FIFA forces in England. The FA targeted Warner when grubbily seeking support for their 2018 World Cup bid. And investigative journalist Andrew Jennings, currently setting the world justifiable smugness record, targeted Warner in his long-standing investigation of FIFA’s ne’er-do-welling.
Warner’s regular appearances in the 164-page indictment, backed by a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)…erm…investigation, cover activities from 1991 to 2011. He “established and controlled numerous bank accounts and corporate entities in which he mingled his personal assets and those of CONCACAF, CFU and TTFF.” He “often used the assistance of” former CONCACAF general secretary and FIFA Executive Committee member, the perfectly-named Chuck Blazer (“whose fortunes rose with Warner’s”) to “leverage his influence and exploit his official positions for personal gain…and…solicit and accept bribes in connection with his official duties, including the selection of the host nation for the World Cups held in 1998 and 2010.”
FIFA, CONCACAF and CFU funds were diverted “into accounts that he controlled and used for his personal benefit.” “A 2005 purchase of a Miami, Florida condominium” was funded by “money drawn from an account held in the name of a soccer facility that was… supported in part” by the “Financial Assistance Program” through which FIFA “helped finance the confederations and their member associations.”
Officials of the American branch of Brazil-based multinational sports marketing agency Traffic, “caused bribes” (lovely phrase) “to be made to Warner and (Blazer)… by engaging “in a number of bribery and fraud schemes in connection with their efforts to obtain various rights from CONCACAF, CFU, and various federations in the region, including Trinidad and Tobago…”
Traffic won the marketing rights contract for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which “was subsequently amended and renewed so that Traffic acquired the rights to the five editions of the Gold Cup played between 1996 and 2003,” for which two Traffic senior executives “together caused bribe payments to be made to” Warner and Blazer. And the indictment meticulously details Warner’s FIFA career-ending involvement in Asian Football Confederation president Mohammed Bin Hammam’s 2011 FIFA presidential election campaigning, when he specifically organised payment of $40,000 “gifts” to “certain CFU officials” from Bin Hammam. It even quotes Warner’s breathtakingly arrogant reaction on discovering that a CFU representative “contacted CONCACAF offices” about the payments. “There are some people here who think they are more pious than thou,” Warner suggested. “If you’re pious, open a church, friends. Our business is our business.”
Business was good: “After the scheme had been uncovered and (Warner) resigned from his soccer-related positions, (Bin Hammam) caused $1,211,980 to be wired from an account that he controlled… for credit to an account held in Warner’s name…” Then there’s the developing story of “high-ranking” FIFA and South African officials preparing “for the government of South Africa to pay $10m to CFU to ‘support the African diaspora.’” This was “understood to be in exchange for the agreement of Warner (and others) to all vote for South Africa, rather than Morocco, to host the 2010 World Cup.” Previously “Warner and his family had cultivated ties with South African soccer officials in connection with and subsequent to a failed bid by South Africa to host the 2006 World Cup,” cultivation which included “a briefcase containing bundles of U.S. currency in $10,000 stacks” being “provided to Warner.” Stay classy, Jack.
I have written extensively on Warner on this site. So, in as much as I can feel this way about anyone I’ve never met, I find him utterly repugnant. Five and a half years ago, I called Warner “a ticket tout and swindler… an arrogant, ignorant, thuggish, loutish, borderline racist, dictatorial, political failure.” Since when I’ve been wracked with guilt that… I’d missed something out. Many of those “qualities” emerged in statements Warner made to various cameras before and since handing himself in to Trinidad police, spending a night in jail and leaving via an ambulance complaining of exhaustion, hours before speaking at a rally of his Independent “Liberal” political party (ILP).
On a short video posted by the Guardian newspaper he claimed it was “strange that the US could make this announcement two days before FIFA elections. One has to be naive not to believe that this has something to do with it.” He added. “I left FIFA four years ago and decided to direct my bucket” (no, me neither) “in Trinidad.” He admitted that “I am available to talk in a court of law.” Handy, that. But, “I remain unperturbed.” And, best of all, “It was I who single-handedly got Trinidad and Tobago into the 2006 World Cup.”
The BBC’s Radini Vadianaythan noted that “many on this island praise him for getting Trinidad into the World Cup.” But “Soca Warriors” goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, whose hands were rather more pertinent to their qualification, tweeted in response: “Arrogance and dishonesty are an ugly mix.” Maybe Warner meant he single-handedly financed the campaign, somehow (cough). If he did, he might be better served not going into detail. Luckily, “going into detail” isn’t Warner’s strength. He asked the ILP rally: “If I have been thieving FIFA money for 30 years, who give me the money? How come he is not charged? Why only persons from third-world countries have been charged?” (Warner was, remember, exhausted, which might charitably explanation other guff, such as: “Nelson Mandela made jail. Gandhi made jail. Castro made jail. So who’s Jack Warner?” It’s a wonder he didn’t namecheck Jeffrey Archer).
But, as Associated Press reporter Rob Harris tweeted: “I suggest Jack reads the indictment. It might help his defence if he does.” Clearly he hadn’t. Otherwise he would not have said he “didn’t even see” Blazer’s name when the indictment news broke. When later asked if “the other officials” should be on the “charge sheet”, a puzzled Warner asked “like who?” and added “why haven’t they touched Blazer?” despite the indictment explaining that they very much had. The “third-world” question was old-school Warner, grimly playing the race card, which he was to do again. But “how come he is not charged?” might still prove the most pertinent, assuming the “he” is (and here’s a phrase football journalists everywhere have been itching to type for years) former FIFA President Blatter.
You’d doubt Warner’s credibility as a witness to night following day. But if he can point prosecutors to documentary evidence of any FIFA wrongdoing he may be worth taking seriously, ultimate proof that there’s a first time for everything. This seemed unlikely. In a lengthy interview with Vadianaythan, Warner denied there was a “plea deal for sharing information on Sepp Blatter.” He boasted that: “I have enough information that is worthwhile,” but wanted “no part of that,” despite being “very, very, very far from Sepp Blatter.” Yet maybe Blatter heard this and, knowing Warner as he did, assumed he’d be plea bargaining his arse off before the week was out. Especially as Warner wondered again why the “universally discredited and disliked” Blatter was about to be re-elected “because if I am the villain of the piece, he was my president for 24 years… he shouldn’t be allowed to go for it.”
Warner then claimed the Bin Hammam payments were “to develop youth football, which is normal for FIFA,” adding, perhaps unwisely, that “Blatter does that every Monday morning” and, perhaps even more unwisely: “Where’s the cheque? Show it. It is very easy to trace this.” The detail of much of the indictment suggests the FBI discovered how easy it was.” The indictment was, Warner continued, a “third-world/first-world paradigm…because “the US lost the (2022) World Cup bid, they felt that I did not help them enough to get it” and they were “angry” at losing to Qatar, “an Arabic country, a Muslim country, a small country that has no place in World Cup football.” He also alleged “racial discrimination, geographical discrimination and you may even say religious, I don’t know,” adding “It’s an evidential witch-hunt.” And when asked how sure he was of this, he replied: “I would put my head on the block for it,” a wish soon to be granted.
However, he confused the indictment with the FIFA-commissioned report on corruption investigations undertaken by US ex-attorney Michael Garcia, the imaginatively-entitled “Garcia Report.” Warner found it “sickening and painful that FIFA appointed Garcia, an American, to attack and indict people, knowing that America has a grouse.” He added that “my court”, (his?), “has told them to produce the evidence in 60 days.” But “they” were the FBI, not Garcia. And while “Garcia has a US bias, obviously,” President Obama could not be blamed “for everything his country does. That doesn’t make sense.” “US bias” got a further, memorable, airing in front of more self-appointed cameras. Spectacularly missing the point, Warner backed his accusation of US “double standards” with an article from The Onion website, a spoof which completely passed him by, despite the preposterous headline FIFA Frantically Announces 2015 Summer World Cup in the United States.
An eight-minute video posted on, ahem, Warner TV (incredibly not a “spoof”) is as preposterous and if the material is his defence against the indictment, he’ll be swapping his natty green ILP gear for a less fetching orange jumpsuit. He’d clearly read as much of the article as he had the indictment. Phrases such as “the tournament’s official logo, a hand-drawn stick figure kicking a soccer ball with USA 2015 hastily scribbled in black marker above its head” would surely have rung an alarm bell… unless Warner thought FIFA quite capable of such nonsense, which is too bizarre to contemplate. Isn’t it? Yet he showed the article to camera, twice, as evidence of the “conspiracy” against him, which, he repeated to “my viewers on Warner TV,” has “(all) stemmed” from the failed US 2020 bid. He concluded: “I could understand their pain” but they should “take (their) losses like a man and go.” Little wonder this video is now football-world famous.
Warner was “consoled” by support “on the blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook” and the gullible fruit-loops who “came out with your deeds and your properties” and, even to his evident surprise, “even your blank cheques… so as to be able to stand my bail.” Then he made an Oscar-length thank you speech to all those involved in his brief, exhausting prison stay, including “Anne-Marie who sent me breakfast,” and the “hundreds of prisoners who stood up and applauded me when I was leaving.” Whether they were glad to see him go, or acknowledging one of their own, only they know. For Warner, the indictment was all about him. “How is it that I can be responsible for any perceived culture of FIFA…the youngest person from the smallest country ever to have reached that far in FIFA?” he asked. “How is it that the whole world expects me to have the influence to change the World Cup bid?”
He arrogantly labelled himself “everybody’s whipping boy both nationally and internationally” (demonstrably Blatter’s role) and declared: “I have never changed the culture of FIFA, nothing I have done in FIFA has ever been inconsistent with the international culture of FIFA,” which, surely, is the point of the indictment. And he promised “daily updates from time-to-time” before the video ended with the ILP slogan “Warner and you, have you got your fair share?” Warner’s definition of “fair” could yet define his future. Warner’s supporters seem unmoved by the indictment. But his joke figure status has spread beyond those who regarded him as such when Jennings was after him, much to the dismay of luminaries from David Cameron to… er… Ian Wright. Warner’s “daily updates from time-to-time” could be fun, especially as the daily updates from other aspects of this on-going tale are proving huge fun…and much, much more. To be continued. At long last.
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