Caribbean soccer official Jack Warner, who says he has evidence disproving U.S. charges he accepted bribes, should surrender and release any information that could help his case, Trinidad and Tobago Justice Minister Prakash Ramadhar said Sunday.
“Mr. Warner should go through the process,” Ramadhar said in response to a question about whether Warner, a former national politician running for re-election in Trinidad, should turn himself in.
Warner was a FIFA vice president and the head of the soccer governing body for the Caribbean, Central and North America region. He was arrested and released from prison on the island after being named in a U.S. indictment unsealed last month against nine officials at FIFA, soccer’s governing body, and five corporate executives, saying they paid or took $150 million in bribes. Warner, whose son Daryll pleaded guilty in the case, quit soccer in 2011.
FIFA, which collected almost $5 billion from running last year’s World Cup in Brazil, has been battered by scandal for years. Arrests of seven officials last month at a Zurich hotel buffeted the organization, which was gathered to vote to give President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter a fifth term.
Days after his re-election, the 79-year-old Blatter said he would resign after losing the support of some regions. He said he will leave the organization when a replacement is picked in six to nine months.
Warner didn’t immediately respond to phone calls, text or e-mail messages Sunday asking for a response to Ramadhar’s comments.
Warner is political leader of the Independent Liberal Party, while Ramadhar is political head of the Congress of the People.
The COP is the second-largest party in the coalition that formed the government in May 2010. The largest party is the United National Congress. Warner was chairman of the UNC before he formed ILP in July 2013. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is the UNC political leader.
Warner, who is wanted in New York on charges of racketeering and money-laundering, could remain in Trinidad and Tobago for a long time, according to Ramadhar.
“Some lawyers have an unlimited ability for stretching things out, so it can go on for a very extended period of time,” Ramadhar said at a news conference Sunday morning in Port of Spain.
The minister explained that Trinidad and Tobago’s legal system might allow appeals to go from the Magistrate Court -- before which Warner’s U.S. extradition request is being heard -- to the High Court, to the Court of Appeal, and then to the U.K.’s Privy Council, with months between hearings.
Warner appeared before a Port of Spain magistrate on May 27, but no decision was made on his extradition, and he wasn’t required to enter a plea. The matter was scheduled to be heard on July 9, and his attorneys could seek another adjournment.
Ramadhar called on Warner to surrender to U.S. law enforcement immediately, saying if he is innocent he could rush to trial to clear his name, and that of his country.
Warner has said he has incriminating evidence against Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Blatter.
“If you have truth, bring it,” Ramadhar said.