Australia’s Football Federation (FFA) has not called in the federal police to investigate a 2013 enquiry finding that allegedly corrupt FIFA executive Jack Warner stole $500,000 from the FFA, according to a report in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald.
The funds were meant for a stadium upgrade that Warner had sought from Australian soccer officials in 2010, a year in which the FFA was also seeking Warner’s support for Australia’s World Cup hosting bid, the paper said.
A senior FIFA source described as “disgraceful” the revelation that the FFA has not informed the federal police about the allegedly stolen US$462,000 (TT$2.95 million). The FFA sent the funds to a Warner-controlled Caribbean bank account in 2010, ostensibly to fund a football stadium upgrade in Trinidad and Tobago.
The concerns about the failure to report the theft have been echoed by the FFA’s former corporate affairs manager Bonita Mersiades.
In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, Mersiades said the reason the FFA was reluctant to report the theft may be because it could further expose the highly risky manner in which it gave “international development” grants to corruption-riddled overseas football bodies at a time when the FFA was also seeking their support for Australia’s bid to host the World Cup.
“The FFA should report the alleged theft of its funds by Mr Warner immediately to the federal police given a 2013 enquiry has already found that a fraud has most likely been committed,” Mersiades said.
Over the weekend, the UK paper the Sunday Times exposed an alleged bid-buying racket run by former FIFA executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam.
It allegedly involved payments totalling around US$5 million to football officials in return for getting them to support Qatar’s ultimately successful world cup bid.
Among the questionable payments allegedly made by bin Hammam were those wired to then FIFA officials Warner and Reynald Temarii.
Both are former FIFA executives who Australia was also lobbying in a controversial manner in 2010.
Fairfax Media has previously revealed Temarii had a list of demands for the FFA to meet in return for his vote, including giving Hyundai vehicles to Oceania member federations and providing financial assistance to soccer in the region.
Mersiades told Fairfax Media, “The revelations in the Sunday Times about the way bin Hammam used hospitality, gifts, perks, and upgrades of stadiums to win bid support has parallels with the manner in which Australia used some of its funds during its bidding campaign. Just look at the FFA funds that landed in Warner’s account and which have never been recovered.”
But Fairfax Media can reveal that this FIFA investigation has recently also taken evidence from FFA insiders about Australia’s dealings with Warner, Temarii and other soccer officials during the 2010 bid.
When the FFA was asked recently by Fairfax Media about why it had not reported to the federal police the allegedly corrupt theft in 2010 of Australian soccer funds by Warner—given the crime was exposed in an enquiry a year ago—a FFA spokesman said it was awaiting “the outcome of… (the ongoing FIFA enquiry) before pursuing the matter”.
In April 2013, a widely publicised formal enquiry by the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Associations of Football (CONCACAF) integrity committee found that the US$462,200 the FFA deposited in a Caribbean bank account controlled by Warner had most likely been stolen.
The CONCACAF enquiry claimed the bank account was controlled by Warner, who appears to have simply pocketed the FFA’s funds.