FIFA report reveals bribery evidence
GENEVA -- FIFA had "compelling" evidence that Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner conspired to bribe voters in the organization's presidential election before it suspended them from world soccer's governing body.
FIFA's ethics committee concluded that the allegations bin Hammam offered $40,000 cash payments to Caribbean officials "constitute prima facie an act of bribery."
A report into Warner's case, seen by The Associated Press, said the then-FIFA vice president was an accessory to bribery who offered "mere self-serving declarations" at a hearing last month.
The 17-page document was sent last week to Warner, a 28-year veteran of FIFA's ruling executive committee who led the North, Central American and Caribbean regional body since 1990.
Days later, the Trinidad and Tobago government minister quit his soccer positions while insisting that he would have been "fully exonerated by any objective arbiter."
The damning language in the ethics panel's report stands out in contrast to FIFA's official stance on Warner's investigation, which was dropped on Monday.
FIFA said it no longer had legal authority to pursue Warner and that he kept "the presumption of innocence."
FIFA declined to comment Wednesday on the leaked report, which was first revealed by Britain's Press Association news agency.
Warner issued a statement claiming the document was circulated by "pathologically mendacious" people within FIFA who would "stop at no length to destroy my legacy."
"Let me once again reiterate for the sake of those with hidden agendas; I, Jack Warner, did not partake in the distribution of any cash gifts to my members," the former Caribbean Football Union leader said.
Calls to Warner's lawyer in Trinidad, Om Lalla, were not answered.
Bin Hammam and Warner were summoned to appear before FIFA's ethics committee on May 29, and provisionally suspended based on a dossier of evidence relating to the Qatari candidate's campaign visit to meet CFU members at a hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Hours before the hearing, bin Hammam withdrew from the election scheduled for four days later against FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
Blatter, who attended Wednesday night's Gold Cup matches in Houston, deflected questions about the ethics report to FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot.
Blatter "was just here to watch the games" and would not comment, Maingot told The Associated Press.
The ethics panel, headed by Namibian judge Petrus Damaseb, studied witness statements from officials representing four Caribbean federations who were allegedly offered brown envelopes stuffed with $100 bills after hearing bin Hammam's election pitch on May 10.
"It appears rather compelling to consider that the actions of Mr. bin Hammam constitute prima facie an act of bribery, or at least an attempt to commit bribery," the report said.
The panel found "comprehensive, convincing and overwhelming evidence" that Warner arranged the meeting specifically to enable corruption. It was "impossible" to think Warner was unaware of the payments and their intention to influence how CFU members voted.
"Consequently, the accused (Warner) would at least be considered as an accessory to the aforementioned violations," the report said.
Officials from the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands provided witness statements that were "coherent, credible and detailed," the panel decided.
The whistleblowers said Warner told delegates that "the cash gift had been provided by Mr. bin Hammam.
"The accused further stated that he had advised Mr. bin Hammam to bring the cash equivalent of any gift he intended to bring to the delegates," the report said.
Warner, meanwhile, "failed to provide the FIFA Ethics Committee with a plausible explanation" to refute the allegations.
The panel justified the suspensions, pending a full inquiry, because officials suspected of bribery would cause "irreparable damage to FIFA" if they remained within the organization.
Though Warner is out of reach of its judicial bodies, FIFA is seeking to interview him as a witness in the ongoing probes into bin Hammam and two CFU employees alleged to have handed over the payments. All deny wrongdoing and are expected to face the ethics panel again next month.
FIFA has hired investigators led by former FBI director Louis Freeh to interview Warner's allies within the CFU who initially denied being offered cash payments.
Bin Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation president, has also appealed his provisional ban and awaits a separate ruling from FIFA.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press