Port of Spain, Trinidad — In yet more revelations in the massive FIFA corruption scandal, Trinidad member of parliament and former FIFA vice president, Jack Warner, is facing new allegations that he diverted US$750,000 in emergency funds donated by FIFA and the Korean Football Association intended for victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake to bank accounts he controlled.
The BBC reported that US investigators allege the money went to accounts controlled by Warner, at “Warner’s direction” for his “personal use”.
Warner visited Haiti in the months after the disaster and pledged the money to help rebuild the country. However, according to US investigators, some five years later, the money was still unaccounted for.
“I think if Jack Warner actually stole money that was meant for Haiti, that is a most despicable crime, and I would expect the authorities to do all that they can to ensure the recovery of that money,” said attorney general Garvin Nicholas.
In 2012, the Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) claimed that funds donated for Haiti were paid into a bank account controlled by Warner. It said the money from FIFA ($250,000) and the South Korean FA ($500,000) was paid into a TTFF account it claimed only Warner controlled.
At the time, Warner said the allegations were a conspiracy: “I have nothing to answer to anybody. Who wants to make allegations, make allegations.”
Warner has continued to deny any wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, Frank Lowy, president of Football Federation Australia (FFA), said he would welcome an inquiry into an AU$500,000 payment made as part of Australia’s failed bid to host the 2022 World Cup bid. That money, too, is alleged to have ended up in a bank account belonging to Warner.
In the meantime, Australia has shelved its bid, announced a month ago, to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
“In the current volatile environment, FFA can give no consideration to bidding for any FIFA tournament,” the FFA said in a statement on Tuesday.
The latest allegations come in the wake of reports that a separate US$10 million payment by South Africa, said to be connected to the country’s successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup, was in fact a bribe paid to Warner and also ended up in accounts controlled by him and, in part at least, was used for his personal benefit.
Warner has also been accused of asking Egypt for a US$7 million bribe for votes to host the 2010 World Cup.
Meanwhile, the attorney general’s condemnation of Warner’s alleged diversion of funds intended for Haiti appears to be resonating with members of his (Warner’s) own political party, the Independent Liberal Party (ILP).
Sources claimed on Tuesday morning that several top officials of the ILP are fleeing from Warner and his party.
One of them, an elected ILP councillor, said he is prepared to tell all that he knows about Warner and other members of the party who he claims laundered money for Warner in property deals.
Warner reportedly made elaborate political promises to his party colleagues, including an election alliance with the opposition, which involved power sharing and that in any new government the ILP executives would be given posts as senators, on state boards, and would receive lucrative contracts.
In related news, the president of an Argentine sports marketing company, which allegedly paid massive bribes to FIFA officials for rights relating to the Copa America tournaments, has turned himself in to the Italian police. Alejandro Burzaco, who was also indicted in the US investigation, was expected to appear in an Italian court on Tuesday for a bail hearing.
He had reportedly escaped being taken into custody in the dawn raids in Switzerland last month, despite being at the same hotel as the FIFA officials who were rounded up in the dramatic arrest. Last week he was named on the Interpol most wanted list, along with Warner and four other men with ties to FIFA.
Burzaco partnered with other sports marketing firms to obtain the exclusive worldwide rights to the 2015, 2019 and 2023 Copa America tournaments, as well as the 2016 centenary edition of the South American championship. They are now accused of agreeing to pay some $110 million in bribes for those rights.