house business: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Works Minister Jack Warner thump the desk in support of a fellow member during yesterday's sitting of the Lower House in Port of Spain. —Photo: CURTIS CHASE

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THEY CAN'T HANG MY JACK

Warner off to Zurich to answer bribery charges

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

FIFA vice-president Jack Warner said yesterday that his Jack will not be hung and declared that the world should brace for a "football tsunami" over the next couple of days.

Warner leaves this morning for Zurich, Switzerland, where he will face FIFA's ethics committee to answer allegations of bribery tomorrow.

Warner, also the Minister of Works and Transport and chairman of the United National Congress (UNC), is accused along with FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam, of offering bribes to members of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) in exchange for votes in the FIFA presidential elections which will take place next Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters on the adjournment of Parliament at the Red House in Port of Spain yesterday, Warner repeated that he was not guilty of any wrongdoing. Warner said a bombshell is looming.

"I tell you something, in the next couple days you will see a football tsunami that will hit FIFA and the world that will shock you. ... The time has come when I must stop playing dead so you'll see it, it's coming, trust me you'll see it by now and Monday," said Warner.

"I have been here for 29 consecutive years and if the worst happen, the worst happen," he added.

Asked if he was prepared to walk away from FIFA at anytime soon, Warner answered, "If that is what it comes to so be it, you must never get too attached to anything, it clouds your judgment and therefore whatever happens, happens, que sera sera. I am not even remotely bothered. I had planned to leave Saturday morning in any case because I have meetings on Sunday afternoon. ... They can do what they want, it doesn't bother me".

Questioned on whether he thinks that this time around his Jack will be hung, he responded: "Me? I have lived three score and almost ten and my Jack hasn't been hanged as yet, why should it be hung now? By whom? The American Chuck Blazer? His American lawyer John Collins? Give me a break. I am not the faint-hearted you know ... Let them go ahead, I have no problem with that. But I'll tell you something, I will hold my head high to the very end because, I repeat here again, I am not guilty of a single iota of wrongdoing."

Warner also faces another probe into allegations of unethical behaviour in a British lawmakers' hearing this month.

The former head of England's failed 2018 World Cup bid, Lord David Triesman, has alleged Warner asked for money to build an education centre and buy 2010 World Cup broadcast rights for Haiti.

An e-mail from Warner to Triesman in February 2010 was released by the BBC where Warner urged the FA to contribute towards the cost of purchasing the rights to show World Cup matches on giant screens in Haiti.

Warner said all these attacks and allegations against him were driven by envy.

"I am in FIFA for 29 consecutive years, I was the first black man to have ever been in FIFA at this level. I have come from the smallest country ever to be on the FIFA executive committee. There is no country smaller than Trinidad and Tobago on FIFA's executive committee. I am wielding more power in FIFA now than sometimes even the president, I must be the envy of others.

"In terms of football history my country does not even have one and therefore there are people out there who would ask why should I be there and what is my role, so I become the butt of all kinds of attacks and I accept this without any kind of anger because I understand people, this is the nature of human beings," he said.

Referring specifically to the e-mail, he said: "What it (e-mail) says (is) to help Haiti get two big screens to see the World Cup for $1.6 million, that's the e-mail! ... did it say anything about Jack Warner? Jack Warner asked to help Haiti to see the World Cup by putting some big screens, what is wrong with that? I repeat, this is election time my friends."

Warner said both England and the United States were upset with him because they did not win the bid to host the World Cups.

He said he does not understand why England was against him as the country only got one vote so others should be questioned as to why they did not vote in England's favour.

"The US is accusing me of not working hard enough for them. What more you want me to do, go in the people house and sleep with them? I can't do that! I did for the US all I could have done," he said.

"This is an election time in FIFA, it happens every time ... especially when there is a contender," Warner said, noting that the last time FIFA President Sepp Blatter had a contender was in 2002 and then too, there was heated controversy.

"FIFA politics is far bigger than the politics you have seen here. It make our politics here look like child's play. Now at the end of the day, if even the worst happens, I'm still president of CONCACAF," he added.

Asked about his current relationship with Blatter, Warner said many were upset because of his meeting with Bin Hammam. "I know they were not pleased with it, but I intend for fairplay. I do not believe I should rubber-stamp Mr Blatter. We have had our differences in the past and some very serious ones too. That didn't influence me in any way, but I wanted to hear Mr Bin Hammam, I think that was the correct thing to do."

Questioned on whether he had a time-frame when he would retire from FIFA, Warner said, "I know when I propose to leave FIFA I don't propose to leave on a walking stick and I don't propose unlike Mr Blatter, who at 75 is going back. I don't propose to be there at 75."

Questioned on his relationship with CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer who has reported the allegations of bribery to the ethics committee, Warner explained that Blazer was still upset over the US loss of the World Cup bid and that Qatar won.

"...And there has been some resentment still and the feeling is that I should not be talking to him (Bin Hammam) or his friends. I voted for the US like Mr Blazer and I, like Mr Blazer, was devastated over the fact that the US lost. But I will not allow that to impugn Mr Bin Hammam's character or to destroy our friendship. I am not that kind of person and if Mr Blazer and they want to do that, let them go ahead," said Warner.

Warner said he has faced bigger issues in life and he is prepared for the consequences.

He returns home next Thursday after the FIFA presidential elections.

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