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FIFA suspect uses fake news in defense

Jack Warner, who previously blamed ‘Zionism’ for a bribery scandal which forced him out of world soccer, treats satirical Onion news piece as fact

Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, 72, in a video uploaded to YouTube Sunday, May 31, 2015 (YouTube screen cap)
Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, 72, in a video uploaded to YouTube Sunday, May 31, 2015 (YouTube screen cap)

Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner cited a satirical news article Sunday in an attempt to clear his name of corruption charges leveled against him, apparently without realizing the piece of writing was only a mock account.

Warner, 72, was arrested in Trinidad and Tobago last Wednesday on bribery charges as part of a massive bust of top soccer officials. He was pushed out of FIFA four years earlier amid another bribery scandal, which he blamed at the time on “Zionists.”

In a video uploaded to his personal website Sunday, Warner held up a printout of an article from the satirical news site the Onion titled “FIFA Frantically Announces 2015 Summer World Cup in the United States.

He goes on to suggest that US efforts to prosecute former FIFA officials stemmed from the country’s “failed bid to host the World Cup.”

“The US applied to hold the World Cup in 2022 and they lost the bid to Qatar — a small country, an Arabic country, a Muslim country,” Warner said in the video recording, which was also uploaded to Facebook and YouTube. “I could understand the US embarrassment.”

He goes on to criticize the US for accepting the honor of hosting the “Summer World Cup, 2015, from the very same organization that they are accusing of being corrupt. That has to be double standards.”

The Summer World Cup 2015, of course, does not exist except in the fake Onion piece, which also states that the international tournament was set to kick off in the US on Sunday.

Warner’s gaffe was widely mocked online, and the video quickly disappeared from his website only to be replaced two hours later with an edited version, missing all references to the Onion, according to The New York Times.

This is not the first time Warner has seen demons where none were lurking.

In 2011, after being forced out of FIFA amid allegations he received cash “gifts” from former Asian Football Confederation chief Mohammed Bin Hammam, he said Zionism was behind his and the Qatari official’s removal.

“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.

 

A picture taken on April 27, 2011 shows then FIFA's vice-president Jack Warner in Cartagena. Jack Warner was among several soccer officials charged, on May 27, 2015, suspected of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars.  (AFP PHOTO / Luis Acosta)
A picture taken on April 27, 2011 shows then FIFA’s vice-president Jack Warner in Cartagena. Jack Warner was among several soccer officials charged, on May 27, 2015, suspected of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars. (AFP PHOTO / Luis Acosta)

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.

He 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 has protested his innocence.

AFP and Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.

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