Trinidad media put Jack Warner in the corner

2015-06-05 16:01
Jack Warner (File)

Jack Warner (File)

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Johannesburg - The balmy heat of laid back Trinidad seemed to rise a little as former International Football Association (FIFA) executive and politician Jack Warner found himself just as much in the firing line as South African politicians over an alleged $10m (R120m) sweetener to vote for the country to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

“South Africa didn't give me a $10m bribe, [former Fifa president Sepp] Blatter didn't give me any bribe,” the southern Caribbean island country's Trinidad Express reported Warner as saying.

Denying everything, the former FIFA deputy president said of himself: “Take care the hole you dig for Jack Warner, you fall in it.” 

Warner, leader of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP), reportedly addressed supporters and a huge group of journalists in sweltering heat in a tent in Marabella.

He was the former head of the Central and North American soccer body Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) and is one of several people indicted in the US on bribery and corruption charges over the $10m. 

Dubbed a "misunderstood Robin Hood" in the headline, it was reported that Warner mopped his face with his handkerchief while the tent filled up with people wanting him to explain.

“Lord have mercy! They nasty!” shouted one woman, according to the Trinidad Express, when Warner said he felt betrayed by the country's Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, his former colleagues and Blatter.

In another article, Persad-Bissessar defended herself against Warner's allegations that funds from FIFA were used in 2010 for political campaigns and the general election for the party she heads, the United National Congress (UNC).

“I keep saying my hands are clean and my heart is free. I am not concerned. Kamla received no funds from Mr Warner.” 

In the accompanying picture, she was planting a breadfruit tree with her family.

“It is his plan to distract from the major issues he is facing. He is trying to involve us in a political dimension, but the greater dimension is the legal and justice dimension,'' she said, adding campaigning records would be audited to prove Warner was off course.

Warner reportedly once held the positions of UNC's chairperson and held cabinet portfolios in works, transport and national security. It describes itself as one of the two major political parties in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

The party won control of the government in 1995, but a split in 2001 saw it lose its parliamentary majority. In May 2010, it returned as the majority party in the ruling coalition, the "People’s Partnership".

Another politician, government minister Roodal Moonilal reportedly denied another Warner accusation that Warner had funded his wife's education.

Mbalula under the spotlight

In South Africa, Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula has had to take most of the heat for all the questions raised over the money.

SA Football Association (Safa) president, and now Nelson Mandela Metro Mayor Danny Jordaan, pulled out of a press conference he was supposed to have attended with former Safa president Molefi Oliphant.

This left Mbalula to defend the payment, saying that there was an agreement that some of the money meant for South Africa from FIFA would be sent to Concacaf's Diaspora Legacy Programme.

The 2008 payment to the Caribbean was part of South Africa's policy of supporting sports in Africa and its diaspora, Mbalula stressed.

He said South Africa did not oppose the current investigation by the US into alleged bribery, but called for them to come forward with proof to back such allegations and pledged to share information with the US government.

"The money was never tied to the issue of votes [on who would host the World Cup]. It was about legacy," Mbalula said.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Mbalula was off to vote for another World Cup - this time to London, in the hopes that South Africa would win the rights to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Read more on:    fifa  |  jack warner  |  trinidad  |  fifa bribery scandal

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