By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published June 8, 2015
Austin ‘Jack’ Warner, former vice president of FIFA is currently facing racketeering, wire fraud, bribery and conspiracy charges. The US Government has sought his extradition from Trinidad and Tobago.
A few weeks ago, prior to the reelection of FIFA President Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter, the US government through the FBI delivered stupefying charges and a 47-count indictment against Jack Warner, and nine other high-ranking former and current members of FIFA, and sports marketing companies. The revelations were stunning and the alleged networks, schemes, and influence of Warner, and others were Mafia-esque, barring the killing.
A story is told by Chuck Blazer, former general secretary of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), of a presentation made by the Russians before the CONCACAF Executive Committee with regard to the 2018 World Cup host bid. At the conclusion of the presentation, CONCACAF President Warner uttered six words that startled the Russians, “What is in it for us?” These words hint at the nefariousness of today’s FIFA: an organization apparently void of altruism, riddled with corruption, and a ‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back’ type of mentality.
The US Attorney General and the FBI have indicted Warner, and nine others on 47 counts including fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and racketeering.
While reading the 164-page indictment, Warner’s name was mentioned 105 times with 8 of the 47 counts connected to him. His alleged involvement and orchestration of the various schemes of racketeering, fraud, bribery, and money laundering read like the script of the Godfather movie, and Jack was the real life Don Vito Corleone.
Of interest, and heavily under reported is the alleged schemes that saw Jack defraud CONCACAF, Caribbean Football Union (CFU), and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) of hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. In addition, the knavish stratagems supposedly used to accept bribes and kickbacks, to launder cash, and to prevent suspicious arousal ranged from ingenious to egotistical.
CONCACAF GOLD CUP SCHEME
Warner and Chuck Blazer have been implicated in a bribery scheme for the 2010 World Cup which was granted to South Africa
One of the sports marketing companies at the yoke of this indictment is Traffic Sports USA, Inc. Traffic USA was “involved in the purchase and sale of media and marketing rights associated with (football) in the United States and other parts of CONCACAF”. They acquired the “exclusive worldwide commercial rights to the Gold Cup” from CONCACAF for five consecutive editions from 1996 to 2003. In exchange for this, its alleged bribe payments were made to Warner and Blazer for the acquisition and renewal of these rights.
One such example listed as evidence is Traffic USA’s payment of US$ 200,000, in March 1999, to an intermediary’s New York bank account. The intermediary then credited said amount to a bank account controlled by Chuck Blazer in the Cayman Islands. A few weeks later in April 1999, Blazer transferred half of the amount, US$ 100,000 to a bank account in the name of Jack Warner, in Trinidad and Tobago.
CFU WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS SCHEME
It’s alleged Warner defraud CONCACAF, CFU & TTFF of funds that should have been used for the development of football in the region.
According to all reports, Warner was a demigod in his posts as FIFA vice president, CONCACAF and CFU president, and ‘special advisor’ to TTFF. It’s further alleged, “He mingled his personal assets with those of CONCACAF, CFU, and TTFF”, and diverted “FIFA, CONCACAF, and CFU funds into accounts he controlled and used for his personal benefit”.
One example of this is the CFU World Cup Qualifier scheme outlined in the indictment. CFU member associations would pool their “home team” rights and have CFU President Warner sell them to sports marketing companies, like Traffic USA. This was done “prior to the draw for the next round of the World Cup qualifier matches to maximize leverage and increase profitability to all the members”.
As part of an alleged bribe scheme with Traffic USA, its alleged Warner negotiated a parallel deal, purportedly on behalf of TTFF, in his role as ‘special advisor’ to TTFF. This despite the TTFF rights being already collectively purchased as part of the CFU contract. “The TTFF contract” as alleged was really a Warner bribe payment and hidden from all CFU member associations.
President Barack Obama is presented with soccer jerseys for his daughters, Sasha and Malia by FIFA President Joseph Blatter during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on Monday, July 27, 2009.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Alleged examples of this were the 2006 and 2010 World Cup qualifiers contracts with Traffic USA. For both qualifiers, Traffic USA was to pay US$800,000 on “the TTFF contract” separate from “the CFU contract” payments which already included the TTFF rights. Purportedly, the payments made on “the TTFF contracts” were transferred directly into personal accounts of Jack Warner, and not TTFF accounts.
OTHER NOTABLE SCHEMES
Much reported in the media are the 1998 and 2010 FIFA World Cup Vote schemes as well as the 2011 FIFA Presidential Election scheme. However, under-reported are the dodgy details of these schemes. For example, of the 10 million dollars wired from FIFA to CONCACAF and CFU accounts under the guise of South Africa’s “contribution to their football development fund”, much, if not all of it was used by Warner for his personal use.
It’s alleged some was used towards his personal loan accounts; another portion was used as partial payment to Blazer for his South Africa 2010 World Cup Vote; and other substantial amounts were also laundered through a Trinidadian supermarket enterprise and a real estate and investment company, to Warner’s personal bank accounts.
Mohammed bin Hammam and Jack Warner were at the centre of the alleged 2011 FIFA Presidential bribery facilitation meeting with CFU member associations.
Warner’s end in world football coincided with his involvement in the 2011 FIFA Presidential Election bribery facilitation. Unbeknownst to the CFU members, who received US$40,000 apiece at the CFU meeting, was bin Hammam’s alleged payment of over US$1.2 million to Warner, two months after facilitating the meeting. No wonder it’s alleged after Jack found out they reported him to Blazer and FIFA, Jack said to the CFU members: “There are some people here who think they are more pious than thou. If you’re pious, open a church, friends. Our business is our business”. I guess Jack’s business and FIFA’s are now the world’s business and the FIFA we now know will change to a virtuous organization. Don’t hold your breath, friends.
Lastly, of fascination in my reading of the indictment was Co-conspirator #23. He was a high-ranking official of one of FIFA’s national member associations; an official of FIFA and CFU; a businessman; a close associate of indicted CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb; and had a connection to a non-US overseas company that manufactured football uniforms and balls. I’m compelled, yet almost fearful to ask US Attorney General Loretta Lynch this question: “Is this co-conspirator a high-profile official of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF)?” All I’ll say now is…
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
From the “Lies & Statistics” Column in the Western Mirror (Published Monday, June 8, 2015)