Jack Warner, the former FIFA vice president who quit soccer’s governing body amid a bribery investigation, applauded the top sports court’s decision to overturn former Asian soccer head Mohamed Bin Hammam’s life ban.
Warner said in an e-mailed statement that the decision by the Lausanne, Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport was “a victory of reason over allegations and mud-throwing.”
The 63-year-old Bin Hamman was incumbent Sepp Blatter’s sole opponent in last year’s presidential election before quitting a day before soccer’s governing body launched a probe into allegations he tried to bribe Caribbean voters at a meeting arranged by Warner with $40,000 stuffed into envelopes. Blatter was elected to a fourth four-year term on June 1, 2011.
“FIFA’s reprehensible conduct with regard to Mohamed bin Hammam has been unmasked, its rulings against him were declared null and void,” Warner wrote. “The question can be asked as to how I would have fared under this FIFA system of injustice.”
FIFA banned 11 officials, reprimanded five more and warned six following its investigation into a specially convened meeting of the Caribbean Football Union in Trinidad on May 10, 2011. CAS said two days ago there was “insufficient evidence” for FIFA to expel Bin Hammam, though it did not say that meant he was innocent of the charges.
CAS said it found that Bin Hammam was “more likely than not the source” of the money and that his efforts “in collaboration with and most likely induced by Mr. Warner” may not have complied with the highest ethical standards in sports.
The day before the court announced its decision to overturn Bin Hammam’s year-old ban, FIFA announced it had extended a separate 30-day ban imposed on the businessman by Asian soccer to a worldwide one. The AFC said it found irregularities in its finances after accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP carried out a forensic audit of its books.
The audit dated July 13 was critical of Bin Hammam’s conduct. It said he used the soccer confederation’s bank account as though it was his own, and detailed several payments to officials including Warner. It said Warner was paid sums totaling $250,000. Neither Warner nor Bin Hammam has responded to questions about the report. Bin Hammam said yesterday his aim was to quit soccer once he’d cleared his name.
The PwC report said the former AFC head spent $700,000 from the soccer body’s accounts on himself and his family, including the purchase of $10,000 on a watch made by Bulgari SpA for himself and nearly $5,000 in cosmetic dentistry for one of his daughters. The 56-page summary also listed about a $2,000 outlay on 14 shirts for Blatter.
FIFA expressed concern at the CAS decision to rule against its ethics committee’s decision in the Bin Hammam case. Warner alleged the Zurich-based body’s head of legal affairs traveled to meet with AFC officials in Kuala Lumpur days before Bin Hammam’s latest ban.
“What role did FIFA’s chief legal officer play in this move?” Warner asked in his statement. “Why was he in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia? Why now? And why did FIFA’s disciplinary committee nigh-immediately adopt the AFC decision of a ban and make it global? Based on what shoddy legal criteria did this ruling happen?”
CAS said it would be possible to reopen the case if evidence related to events in the Caribbean was found by FIFA’s new independent investigators. FIFA two days ago named former U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia as head investigator for its restructured ethics committee.