When Jack Warner chose last year to walk away from football and avoid an ethics committee appearance over bribery allegations many people within the higher realms of FIFA and CONCACAF breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Warner had been the rogue trader within the executive committee in his role as a FIFA vice-president and as president of both the regional authority and the Caribbean Football Union (of which few outsiders had heard until Mohamed Bin Hammam made it famous or, rather, infamous).
At that stage Warner also held an unspecified role as consultant to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation.
Warner supporters – still plenty of them in T&T where he is Minister of Works and, occasionally, even stand-in Prime Minister – continue to justify his command and abilities by pointing out that, since his abrupt exit, much of the edifice has collapsed.
CONCACAF was left squabbling over who should step in as president while whistle-blower Chuck Blazer, rather than staying on to see it into clear, calmer waters, handed over the Trump Tower keys and his general secretaryship just before Christmas.
The CFU is being put back together under FIFA instructions albeit with the involvement of a number of the men who received ethics committee slaps on the wrist for obstructing the investigation into Bin Hammam’s notorious electioneering conference last May.
As for the Trinidad federation, that has been left in total chaos after the possessions raid organised by court officials and bailiffs in co-operation with the 2006 World Cup players who are still battling for their pay and bonuses.
All roads lead back to Warner. Every CFU and TTFF official asked about the whereabouts of cash and accounts insist that Warner is the only man with the combination to their locks. And not only to their safes, either, it appears.
The Sunday Times, which lifted the original vote-rigging lid on the FIFA exco ahead of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes, has returned to the fray with an inquiry into Warner’s role in channelling FIFA emergency funds destined for Haiti after the devastating earthquake in January 2010 which killed anything between 85,000 to 300,000 people (including 30 who had been working in the office block housing the local football federation’s offices).
Warner recommended the provision of $250,000 which FIFA, according to the newspaper, agreed to pay into the TTFF bank account for him to pass on. Now FHF president Yves Jean-Bart (who was re-elected amid controversy in January) has complained that only $60,000 ever reached his country. He said: “Warner always told me: ‘You’re money is there, is available, any time.’ But I didn’t get it.”
Further questions are being raised about $500,000 aid cash which was sent from South Korea by Chung Mong-joon who was then the Asian vice-president of FIFA. Coincidentally, South Korea was a contender in bidding for the 2022 World Cup finals. Apparently the money was sent to a CONCACAF bank account registered in Trinidad.
Various media outlets in the Caribbean have failed, thus far, to obtain a response from Warner to the allegations.
Since his exit from the game he has threatened a “football tsunami” which will wash away FIFA and its long-serving president Sepp Blatter. Thus far, however, his occasional attacks have had only a ripple effect. The most damaging was a claim that he had been sold World Cup TV rights for one dollar in exchange for backing Blatter in successive presidential elections.
In this, as in so many other issues of financial largesse, FIFA’s greatest sin appears to have been the failure to keep a close enough eye on what happened to its money. This, of course, has laid open a file for many more questions.
By Keir Radnedge