Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, arrested in Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday on bribery charges as part of a massive bust of top soccer officials, previously blamed “Zionism” for a bribery scandal which saw him forced from the world soccer body in 2011.
Warner surrendered to authorities late Wednesday in his native Trinidad and Tobago after his name appeared on a list of nine current or former FIFA officials and five business executives who “abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks,” according to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Warner resigned from FIFA in 2011 after the organization opened an ethics investigation into the vice president for receiving cash “gifts” from former Asian Football Confederation chief Mohammed Bin Hammam, ahead of the organization’s elections for president.
After FIFA handed Qatar’s Bin Hammam a lifetime ban from the soccer governing body for his role in the affair, Warner lashed out at the soccer body for what he said were various shortcomings, and vowed to bring down FIFA head Sepp Blatter.
“I will talk about the racism that is within FIFA. I will talk about the levels of religious discrimination which I sought to correct. I will talk about the Zionism, which probably is the most important reason why this acrid attack on Bin Hammam and me was mounted,” Warner wrote at the time in a 1,400 word letter to the Trinidad Guardian.
Warner’s arrest Wednesday came hours after US prosecutors claimed he accepted bribes during host selections for the 1998 and 2010 World Cups in France and South Africa.
The charge that the choice of those countries was tainted by corruption was just a fraction of the allegations aimed at some of football’s most influential decision-makers.
Warner, 72, protested his innocence on Facebook, but later surrendered to authorities and appeared in a Port of Spain court before a judge who set his bail at $394,000, according to local media.
It was unclear whether Warner would remain in jail overnight, the Trinidad Express reported.
“Mr. Warner is entitled to a fair extradition process and both the requesting and requested states intend to abide by the provisions of the treaty to ensure that Mr Warner’s rights are respected,” the Trinidad and Tobago attorney general said in a statement.
US authorities say Warner had harnessed his power at the highest levels of football administration as far back as the early 1990s for personal gain.
Part of the lengthy indictment reads: “Among other things, Warner began to solicit and accept bribes in connection with his official duties, including the selection of the host nation for the World Cups held in 1998 and 2010, which he participated in as a member of the FIFA executive committee.”
Warner denied any wrongdoing earlier Wednesday.
He said he was no longer involved in global football administration, but found the timing of the revelation of the US indictments — two days before a FIFA presidential election that could keep embattled Blatter in control — was noteworthy.
“The actions of FIFA no longer concern me,” Warner said in a statement.
“I cannot help but note, however, that these cross-border coordinated actions come at a time when FIFA is assembled for elections to select a president who is universally disliked by the international community,” he said.