Jack Warner says "there can be no turning back" as he claims to have evidence on FIFA dealings
Warner, charged in a U.S. corruption probe, says he has knowledge of transactions involving Sepp Blatter
Former senior FIFA official Jack Warner, indicted in a wide-ranging bribery scandal, has promised to unleash a tide of evidence relating to the dealings of world soccer’s governing body and its president, Sepp Blatter.
Warner said he fears for his life but it is time to stop keeping secrets for others.
The revelations came first in a paid political ad, titled “Jack Warner: The Gloves are Off,” in which he said he had prepared a comprehensive series of documents on FIFA’s transactions, including checks and corroborated statements.
They have been placed in “different and respected hands,” he said. “There can be no turning back.”
In the TV ad, aired in his native Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday, Warner said he would “no longer keep secrets for those persons who now seek actively to destroy this country’s hard-won international image.”
He also said, “I reasonably and surely fear for my life.”
Warner, who has so far not produced any documents or other physical evidence to support his claims, has displayed some erratic behavior in recent days as the scandal has widened.
He scored a public relations own-goal Sunday by citing an article by satirical news outlet The Onion in an attempt to counter criminal charges against him and prove the United States was pursuing its own agenda in the investigation.
And last week, shortly after he left a Trinidad and Tobago jail in an ambulance – having reportedly been released on bail on the grounds of exhaustion – he concluded a news conference in which he accused the United States of a “witch hunt” by dancing and singing, “Don’t worry about a thing.”
Warner took a more sober tone in his political ad. And shortly after it aired, the 72-year-old again promised to impart information about FIFA’s operations to those investigating alleged corruption at a rally for his Independent Liberal Party.
“I also will give them my knowledge of financial transactions at FIFA including, but not limited to, Sepp Blatter. I have been there for 30 consecutive years. I was a heartbeat away from Blatter. I said to him in 2011, ‘It’s time – at 75 – it’s time to step down,’ ” he said.
Chuck Blazer admits taking bribes
Warner’s latest claims came shortly after court records revealed that Chuck Blazer, a former FIFA executive committee member and a key player in the ongoing corruption investigation into international soccer’s governing body, had admitted taking bribes.
In a 40-page document that federal prosecutors released Wednesday, Blazer tells the court that he and other members of the FIFA executive committee took bribes between 2004 and 2011 and helped South Africa land the 2010 World Cup.
He also describes facilitating a bribe in connection with the 1998 World Cup bidding process.
U.S. officials have said in another court document that the bribe that Blazer helped to negotiate was paid by Moroccan officials to an unnamed member of FIFA’s executive committee. Morocco’s bid for the Cup was unsuccessful. France was awarded the 1998 finals.
Jacques Lambert, head of France’s 1998 World Cup organizing committee, dismissed any notion that France paid a bribe in an interview with France Info radio Thursday, adding that he couldn’t speak for the rival nations.
Lambert said a member of the French committee who met with Warner at the time had assured him “the only thing M. Warner asked for, is that the French team comes to play a ’94 World Cup preparation game at Trinidad and Tobago.”
Jerome Champagne, ex-deputy secretary general of FIFA, told CNN’s French affiliate BFMTV that “the corrupters know very well who they can corrupt.”
Warner: ‘Blatter knows why he fell’
Speaking at his political rally Wednesday, Warner said Blatter had turned against him in 2011 when he advised the Swiss to stand down, saying it should be “tomorrow, not the day after,” or he would become a lame duck president of FIFA and people might start to ask if he was cooking the books.
“I said to him: ‘Step down.’ I said to him: ‘Mr. Blatter, I empathize with you, because I was in 2011 where you are today. The only difference is you caused my demise, I didn’t cause yours.’ “
While promising to dish the dirt on others within FIFA, Warner denied wrongdoing himself.
“South Africa didn’t give me any $10 million bribe,” he said. “Blatter didn’t give me any bribe.”
He added, “Blatter knows why he fell. And if there’s one other person who knows, I do.”
Blatter stunned the soccer world Tuesday by announcing his intention to resign, just four days after he was elected president for a fifth term by delegates to FIFA’s annual World Congress. According to FIFA rules, the earliest a new leader can be elected would be in four months.
According to the lengthy U.S. Justice Department indictment filed last month, Warner – a former FIFA vice president and one of nine FIFA officials charged last week – is accused of taking a $10 million bribe to vote for South Africa’s 2010 World Cup.
South Africa’s government denies having paid any bribe to secure the hosting rights.
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FIFA officials accused of taking $150 million in bribes
FIFA is mired in two investigations right now.
The first: A Swiss criminal investigation into the highly controversial 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, which went to Russia and Qatar, respectively. Authorities have questioned a few people, but no one’s been arrested. Blatter’s not being questioned as part of the probe, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland said last week.
The second: The U.S. investigation that’s targeting alleged wrongdoing that spans 24 years. U.S. prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 14 people, on charges ranging from money laundering to fraud and racketeering.
They include FIFA officials who took bribes totaling more than $150 million and in return provided “lucrative media and marketing rights” to soccer tournaments as kickbacks, prosecutors say.
The scandal has prompted speculation over whether Russia or Qatar could lose the right to host their respective World Cups if wrongdoing is proved.
On Thursday, British Culture Secretary John Whittingdale told the House of Commons that England is willing to host the 2022 Cup if it is taken away from Qatar.
“Obviously if FIFA came forward and asked us to consider hosting it, we have the facilities in this country and of course we did mount a very impressive, if unsuccessful, bid to host the 2018 World Cup,” he said.
Russia has repeatedly said there is no reason why it would not keep its hosting rights in 2018.
Alexei Sorokin, head of Russia’s 2018 organizing committee, told Britain’s Guardian newspaper, “We’re not afraid of anything. We’re organizing the World Cup. If some are trying to take it away, that’s their business.”
The Asian Football Confederation also pledged its support for Qatar 2022 in a statement Thursday, saying the Gulf was a region of passionate soccer lovers.
“The AFC and the whole Asian football community stands with Qatar and we all look forward to hosting the World Cup, and welcoming the world,” it said.
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CNN’s Larry Register and Patrick Sung contributed to this report.