A defiant Jack Warner, former FIFA vice president, says the latest salvo of litigation by the North American Soccer Confederation, of which he was president, was a “deliberate” and “orchestrated attempt” to “unjustly vilify” him.
In a statement yesterday, Warner responded to a US judge’s order for him to pay punitive damages to Concacaf.
On Tuesday, US District Judge William Kuntz ordered Warner to pay US$79 million in damages in a 2017 civil action which accused him of embezzling tens of millions of dollars.
In a statement after the court awarded the sum, Concacaf said it intended to pursue all available avenues to enforce the judgment in any jurisdiction where it had reason to believe Warner had assets.
Kuntz’s written ruling was issued in the federal court in Brooklyn, New York, after Warner failed to contest the claim.
Concacaf’s lawsuit mirrored allegations in the US indictment that resulted in charges against several top football officials and its case against Warner, and a former Concacaf general secretary Chuck Blazer accused the two of making a fortune through embezzlement – allegations that mirror those in a US criminal investigation that has resulted in charges against several top football officials. The suit accused the pair of negotiating bribes and kickbacks in connection with lucrative broadcasting rights for tournaments including Concacaf’s Gold Cup championship.
However, Warner, in his statement, said the confederation’s lawsuit was “deliberately intended by a biased and hostile US-influence Concacaf executive to promote a narrow agenda and to place the blame for its non-performance in the last seven years, on the shoulders of the previous Concacaf executive.”
He categorically denied being liable for any of the sums which form part of the default judgments against him, adding “and there is absolutely no account that he received these moneys.”
The statement said Concacaf did receive money, though not in the amounts stated in the US default judgments.
“These moneys received by Concacaf and the expenditure spans a period of over 21 years. These moneys were spent throughout the Concacaf region consisting of some 36 separate countries. They were used to build facilities, finance the Gold Cup in the Concacaf region, the World Cup finals, the World Cup payoffs, youth tournaments and women’s football among the various countries of Concacaf, and to finance the operations of the Concacaf secretariat and administration in all 36 countries, as well as to meet recurrent expenditure,” the five-page statement said.
The statement also pointed out that the US extradition proceedings – which he is currently fighting – and the civil lawsuits in the US courts were initiated after the US and Britain lost their bids to host the 2022 World Cup, given instead to Qatar and Russia.
“This was part of the continued efforts of FIFA to diversify and strengthen the participation in football on the African continent and also to give Russia an opportunity to participate. Jack Warner, therefore, cannot be liable for all the moneys spent on Concacaf.”
The statement further said the distribution of television rights was a policy adopted by FIFA for regional bodies to have a source of income that would help them meet their recurring capital expenditure.
“No other regional body has been pursued in the way Concacaf has pursued Jack Warner. No other regional body has pursued its previous executives the way Concacaf has pursued Jack Warner relative to income from television rights or about allegations of fraud,” the statement added.
The statement also said Warner was unable to participate in any of the proceedings in the US federal courts and he was “unaware” of the matters being adjudicated.
“None of these judgments relates to any alleged activity in which Mr Warner participated in the US.
“Concacaf has chosen a court in the US to file these proceedings knowing fully well that Mr Warner is now engaged in extradition proceedings here in TT and therefore would not be in a position to attend to these matters in the US,” the statement added.
In its 2017 civil lawsuits, Concacaf said, “There can be no doubt that Warner and Blazer victimised Concacaf, stealing and defrauding it out of tens of millions of dollars in brazen acts of corruption for their own personal benefit at the expense of the entire Concacaf region.” Both men were banned from FIFA for life.
It accused the men of of negotiating bribes and kickbacks in connection with lucrative broadcasting rights for tournaments including the confederation’s Gold Cup championship. Allegations in the suit also mirrored criminal charges saying that Warner, while he and Blazer were members of FIFA’s executive committee, took a $10 million payment to influence voting on which country should host the World Cup.
Warner ‘’agreed to provide Blazer with $1 million of the $10 million bribe,’’ according to the suit.
‘’Unsurprisingly, when the FIFA Executive Committee vote was held on May 15, 2004, South Africa was selected over Morocco to host the 2010 World Cup. Warner and Blazer both voted for South Africa.’’
The civil claim also sought US$20 million in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages, which included the cost of the Centre of Excellence, which is also the focus of a separate claim in the local courts.
Blazer reached a plea agreement stemming from the criminal indictment for which Warner is facing extradition on allegations of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering, allegedly committed in the US and TT, dating as far back as 1990. Warner, currently on $2.5 million bail
Blazer’s estate agreed earlier this year to pay $20 million in damages in the civil case. Blazer died in July 2017, and his estate settled with Concacaf for US$20 million, but the confederation said it was unlikely to recover the money because of unpaid taxes and another US court’s ruling that the estate was insolvent.
Warner’s sons, Daryll and Daryan, pleaded guilty to fraud charges in the criminal case in 2013 as part of a cooperation deal. They’re both out on bail with travel restrictions within the US and are awaiting sentencing.