Jack: Victory of reason
By ANDRE BAGOO Friday, July 20 2012
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Flashback: Jack Warner embraces Mohamed Bin Hammam at Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain before a meeting of CFU delegates on May 10, 2011. Warner, then a F...
THOUGH it made many findings with negative implications for him, National Security Minister Jack Warner waxed lyrical yesterday and described a judgment of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) into bribery allegations against former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam as a “vindication” and a “victory of reason”.
The CAS yesterday announced it has quashed a lifetime ban which FIFA imposed against Bin Hammam after bribery allegations were made against him following a meeting of Caribbean Football Union (CFU) members at the Hyatt, Port-of-Spain, on May 10, 2011.
Warner, who quit FIFA last July amid allegations that CFU delegates were offered US$40,000 each as bribes to get them to back Bin Hammam, was not before the CAS.
But the CAS said yesterday that it was “more likely than not” that Warner and Bin Hammam were in a collaboration which “may not have complied with the highest ethical standards that should govern the world of football and other sports.” The court said FIFA failed to conduct a comprehensive enough investigation into the bribery allegations.
Warner sought to address the ruling. In a move arguably designed to isolate the FIFA bribery issue from the rest of the Cabinet, the minister fielded questions not at the usual post-Cabinet press-briefing held at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, but at Temple Court, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain, the head office of the Ministry of National Security.
Warner told reporters he had been waiting for yesterday’s announcement for a year and said he had been “comforted” by the fact that a few people had “kept the faith”, including Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
“I have waited a little more than a year for this day and now I feel not only relieved but I feel comforted by the fact that there were a few who kept the faith with me, one of whom being the Prime Minister,” he said. “Today’s (yesterday) publication of the decision by the CAS is a victory of reason over allegations and mud-throwing we have had, especially in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Warner continued, “I was not worried. At the end of the day I knew there would have been justice at a higher level. I took the insults and bided my time.”
Though the CAS found “insufficient evidence” linking Bin Hamman to piles of cash offered to CFU members, it pointed out it was not making a finding of innocence. However, Warner saw things differently.
“As in any court of law, judges are guided by evidence, not allegations, and if a prosecutor or claimant cannot offer uncontestable evidence that stands up to cross-examination and judicial challenge, no court can and no court must convict,” Warner said. “Therefore it did not come as a surprise to me.”
Warner said he quit FIFA because he had no confidence in its ability to adjudicate the allegations, saying all its committees were chosen by Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president, and all committee allowances paid by Blatter.
“I would not subject myself to the FIFA system of injustice,” he said. “I was not prepared to do that.” He said the exercise would have also been too costly and that Bin Hammam has spent a lot in legal fees.“The money he has spent on getting justice, I did not have that,” Warner said. I was not prepared to go through that charade at that tremendous cost...But don’t worry, I am convinced that God don’t sleep and the day of reckoning will come. No weapon forged against me shall prosper.”
He added, “This country is a country of rumours and allegations. Even today, I tell you again, more is coming.” Warner may be right.
While Bin Hammam’s ban was lifted, it is not likely to be the end of the affair. Earlier this week the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) suspended Bin Hammam on corruption allegations. Also CAS itself hinted that FIFA may take another bite at the cherry by conducting a more comprehensive investigation into the Hyatt allegations. FIFA only this week named US attorney Michael J Garcia as its new lead prosecutor, mandated to probe corruption in football.
Warner questioned the timing of the AFC suspension of Bin Hammam, saying it was clearly designed to attempt to influence the CAS decision announced yesterday. He said a “chief legal officer” from FIFA flew to AFC’s base in Malaysia just before the suspension.
Warner said Blatter today is “struggling to give the appearance that he is a paragon of virtue.” The minister said he had been Blatter’s “right hand man for 25 years.” Warner linked the allegations to his desire to see Bin Hammam oppose Blatter in the 2011 FIFA presidential elections.
Attorney Om Lalla, who represents Warner, said the ruling was a “vindication” for the minister.
In response to Opposition calls for a local investigation of the bribery allegations, Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs reportedly contacted FIFA but no evidence was forthcoming from the world football body.
Recently, the Police Service said the investigation was no longer being pursued.
However, the Police Service Commission, which was called on to look into how the police conducted its investigation, has since queried a disparity in Gibbs’ position that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had advised there was no evidence to pursue the case and the DPP’s public disclosure that his recommendation was for the police to determine if there was a possible breach of the Customs Act in relation to the declaration of foreign currency brought into the country by Bin Hammam. Customs officials have also said no one was willing to come forward on the matter.
Questioned over the fact that CAS did not find Bin Hammam innocent, Warner told reporters, “If he is not guilty and he is not innocent what is he? I know you all want to look for all kinds of things. It makes a lot of (news) stories.”
Asked if CFU officials, who have sworn Warner offered cash, lied, Warner said, “I don’t want to say they were lying. I want to say they got incentives to do what they did.”
In relation to moves by FIFA to take back the Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence at Macoya, Warner said he has “a letter” in which Havelange bequeathed the centre to “the Warner family” and to “the Caribbean.”
Before the start of yesterday’s media conference, a far more sombre and pensive-looking Warner was spotted walking on Abercromby Street, approaching the public entrance to Temple Court as members of the media waited inside to question him.
Bin Hammam was yesterday quoted by the BBC saying he would not return to football, even as his ban has been lifted by the CAS.
“My wish now is just to quit and retire,” he told BBC’s World Football programme. “I’ve served football for 42 years — this last year I have seen a very ugly face of the sport and of football. I should have the benefit of the doubt.”