FIFA suspended former vice-president Jack Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam, the head of Asian soccer, because it had “compelling” evidence against them in a bribery investigation, a report into the case said.
Evidence was found that Bin Hammam tried to bribe officials to vote for him in a presidential election, and that Warner was “an accessory to corruption,” according to a summary sent to Warner by FIFA’s ethics committee and seen by Bloomberg News.
Warner quit the soccer ruling body this week after almost 30 years with the Zurich-based organization as a fuller investigation by former FBI Director Louis Freeh continues. The men were suspended May 29 after the ethics body heard allegations that Warner arranged a meeting where Bin Hammam offered gifts of $40,000 to Caribbean officials for their votes in FIFA’s presidential election. Sepp Blatter retained the post unopposed after Bin Hammam withdrew.
“It appears rather compelling to consider that the actions of Mr. Bin Hammam constitute prima facie an act of bribery, or at least an attempt to commit bribery,” said a section of the full report that led to Bin Hammam and Warner’s suspension. There was compelling evidence that Warner “had knowledge of the respective payments and condoned them.” FIFA didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.
The ethics committee reached a primary conclusion that Bin Hammam appeared to have intended to influence Caribbean Football Union member associations’ votes in his favor in the FIFA presidential election on June 1 by the alleged gifts of money.
Bin Hammam, in a text message today, denied all the allegations against him. He failed in an appeal to lift the suspension 10 days ago.
Warner, in an e-mail today, said the process against him was “designed as a fait accompli.”
“Moreover, if there’s ‘comprehensive, convincing and overwhelming’ evidence, as the report says, why then did FIFA accept my resignation and drop all investigations on me?” he added.
In an interview two days ago he said he was quitting all his posts in soccer, including heading the Concacaf regional body since 1990, because people within FIFA and Concacaf “sought to undermine me in ways that are unimaginable.” The disciplinary action against him was dropped after he resigned.
“It is now evident that there are those in a section of the FIFA fraternity who are not only pathologically mendacious, but in the face of FIFA’s stated position and its voluntary recognition of my contribution to world football and by definition to FIFA, will stop at no length to destroy my legacy and destabilize the Caribbean region,” Warner said in a statement today.
The suspensions of Warner and Bin Hammam, two of soccer’s most senior officials, came amid corruption allegations against several members of FIFA’s hierarchy.
Part of FIFA History
Sponsors and partners including European soccer’s governing body UEFA have demanded FIFA take reform measures. Blatter, who was re-elected to a fourth term, announced the creation of new panels to deal with unethical behavior.
Warner told Bloomberg News in the interview that although he was unaware of Bin Hammam offering money to officials, cash gifts had been part of FIFA’s history for as long as he’d been with the organization.
“It’s not unusual for such things to happen and gifts have been around throughout the history of FIFA,” Warner said. “What’s happening now for me is hypocrisy at the highest level.”
The 17-page report detailing the case against Warner was faxed to the Trinidadian on June 14, with a separate report going to Bin Hammam. It contains witness testimony from some of those present at a meeting of the Caribbean Football Union at Port of Spain’s Hyatt Regency hotel, where Warner arranged for Bin Hammam to address soccer officials in May.
The report said witnesses from the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos provided “credible and correspondent” testimony that they were handed brown envelopes containing $40,000 in four stacks of $10,000 made up of $100 bills. Fred Lunn, a soccer official in the Bahamas, photographed the cash and submitted the pictures to FIFA.
Warner provided written and oral evidence to FIFA’s ethics committee, headed by Namibian judge Petrus Damaseb, before its decision. FIFA’s report said his defense contained “mere self-serving declarations” that “failed to provide the FIFA ethics committee with a plausible explanation.”
Still, in confirming Warner’s resignation, FIFA in a statement said his “presumption of innocence is maintained” and that the 68-year-old would no longer be under investigation.