Published: June 21, 2011
Jack Warner, the former FIFA vice president who quit yesterday, said he’d “die first” rather than meet with former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who’s investigating allegations of bribery within the soccer body.
FIFA said Warner’s resignation meant it ended its inquiry into the Trinidadian over claims he and Asian soccer head Mohamed Bin Hammam tried to bribe Caribbean officials in a presidential election.
Warner, who’d been with FIFA almost 30 years, said he’s willing to help FIFA but won’t cooperate with Freeh because of his ties to the U.S. The inquiry was sparked by Chuck Blazer, a U.S. soccer official who worked directly under Warner as regional body Concacaf’s general secretary. Blazer asked Chicago-based lawyer John Collins to compile a report detailing the allegations against Bin Hammam and Warner.
“I will die first. Not me,” Warner said yesterday in a telephone interview from Trinidad. “If FIFA wants me to cooperate I will do that but not with Freeh.”
Warner, 68, who was one of the sport’s most powerful administrators, quit from all his soccer posts, saying he’d felt undermined by officials within FIFA and been “hung out to dry.”
Media reports in the U.K. said today that Warner will travel to FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich to meet with Freeh in the next two weeks. Freeh was appointed FBI Director in 1993 by then U.S. President Bill Clinton, a member of his nation’s unsuccessful bid to stage the 2022 World Cup, a process won by Qatar.
“I’m not going to back a complaint made by an American and investigated by Americans and an attempt to put it on American soil because the complaint is from Miami,” Warner said. “I don’t back this farce.”
Caribbean soccer officials, who are alleged to have been offered $40,000 bribes to vote for Bin Hammam in FIFA’s presidential election, declined to meet with Freeh in Miami and demanded he come to the Bahamas where Concacaf is based. Warner and Bin Hammam deny wrongdoing.
Warner said Collins, who’s acted as general counsel for the United States Soccer Federation, told Concacaf officials in Zurich on May 30, a day after Bin Hammam and Warner had been suspended by FIFA’s ethics committee, that Freeh would be hired to lead the investigation. FIFA announced Freeh’s appointment on June 3, two days after Sepp Blatter was re-elected as the sole candidate following Bin Hammam’s withdrawal.
“Mr. John Collins told the members in Zurich long before he was ever appointed that Louis Freeh shall be the investigator along with his FBI team. John Collins told us that. He told us that long before he was selected. Why should I care about this farce?” Warner said.
Collins denied Warner’s allegation.
“The claim that Louis Freeh and I are somehow close because we are Americans is laughable. It is like saying I know and am close with all 310 million Americans,” he said in an e- mail. “I first met Louis Freeh for the first time when he interviewed me on May 31, 2011. FIFA, in an e-mail, said it was “the Ethics Committee that decides who they wish to seek assistance from.”
While FIFA said it’s dropped the investigation into Warner and “the presumption of innocence is maintained,” it remains unclear what effect it has on the status of an investigation in Trinidad, where Warner is the minister of works and transport.
Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs has yet to receive a response from FIFA on a request for information about alleged bribery at the meeting Warner organized for Bin Hammam at Port of Spain’s Hyatt Regency hotel between May 10 and 11.
Police “will await a response from FIFA to the request before issuing a statement regarding new developments,” a press release said.