England and Australia, the two countries from the Western world who have been on the forefront of allegations of corruption in Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid, have themselves tried to buy the support of FIFA vice-president Jack Warner for their bids, reports the Trinidad Express.
Gulf Times (June 18) – The Trinidad-based newspaper said it has seen communications between the former powerful FIFA vice-president and officials from the bidding teams of the two countries suggesting they might have acted inappropriately by contravening the same bidding procedures they allege Qatar flouted.
Camini Marajh, head of investigative desk at Trinidad Express newspapers reported on Sunday that the former high-flying FIFA executive and Member of Parliament for Chaguanas West, Jack Warner accepted gifts from nations bidding to secure World Cup hosting rights in the run-up to the 2010 vote in violation of the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA) and FIFA’s own bid rules.
“In the run-up to FIFA’s controversial bid to select host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, England sought to secure Warner’s support by footing the bill for the Warner-arranged Caribbean Football Union (CFU) dinner at the Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence, Macoya, and provide financial and technical support for other Warner-identified development projects in Trinidad.
“Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and former English star footballer David Beckham also flew to Trinidad in the frantic bid to woo the very influential Jack Warner, who was not shy about asking for favours, as documents seen by this newspaper show.”
Sunday Express (Sunday edition of Trinidad Express) investigations have found Warner accepted gifts valued in the millions of dollars from bidding nations, including the English football association, The FA; the Russians, Mohammed bin Hammam and Australia. Gifts, according to his annual filings, that were not disclosed to the Integrity Commission or the Board of Inland Revenue, as required by law.
“In the months leading up to the December 2010 vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, The FA sought to curry favour with the former Caribbean football chief and voting member of FIFA, according to documents seen by this reporter,”Trinidad Express said.
The report said FA’s Director of Campaign Operations for England’s 2018 bid, Jane Bateman, was the point person in contact with Warner, former Executive Committee (ExCo) member of FIFA who was forced out of world administrative football in 2011 by a cash-for-votes affair. “Documents obtained by the Sunday Express reveal The FA agreed to sponsor a dinner hosted by the CFU, of which Warner was founder and president, to the tune of £35,608. In the run-up to FIFA’s controversial bid to select host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, England sought to secure Warner’s support by footing the bill for the Warner-arranged CFU dinner at the Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence, Macoya, and provide financial and technical support for other Warner-identified development projects in Trinidad, as documents seen by this newspaper show.”
Based on the exchange of e-mails between Jane Bateman and Warner, the Trinidad Express said the funds sought by the latter was meant to be spent on the repair of the Longdenville recreation ground and the “provision of some cricket and football equipment”. He also revealed a personal political motive for the request, as this excerpt shows.
“In successfully assisting them (villagers) my political stocks locally (which are presently on a high) will soar positioning me in an extremely favourable position to successfully lead my Party in local elections which are due in six months time as well as in general elections which shall become due 18 months later.”
In another e-mail to Bateman on February 21, 2010, Warner noted: “Jane, once again, I do wish to thank The FA for its sponsorship of the CFU dinner. The dinner will have a total of 160 persons coming from 30 countries and is really the flagship event of the CFU. I enclose the dinner budget for The FA’s attention and action—be seeing you soon.”
Trinidad Express said Warner did not immediately respond to a voice mail request for comment and Bateman, who initially said she would respond by the close of Friday, later referred the Sunday Express to The FA’s press office.
“Scott Field, an FA media official yesterday made clear that: “We’ll take seriously any allegation you make that The FA operated outside of any rules or made any financial payments.”
He said: “Officially, we have no comment to make on the assertions. As I say we will take any accusation of wrongdoing very seriously.”
The bid committees were bound by FIFA rules which state that gifts given during the World Cup bidding process should be no more than “occasional gifts that are generally regarded as having symbolic or incidental value”.
“In the case of the Australians, a $462,000 donation for a Trinidad stadium upgrade ended up in Warner’s pockets. Australia also provided a $2.5 mn grant to Warner’s buddy and president of the Jamaican Football Federation Captain Horace Burrell late in the bidding process in October 2010.
“Former corporate affairs manager of Australia’s Football Federation Bonita Mersiades told the Sunday Express about the machinations and backroom deal-making of Australia’s bid consultant, Peter Hagitay, whom she described as “a very old friend of Jack Warner”.
She said she kept being told by Hagitay “Jack’s wife wanted her pearls”.
Mersiades said: “He told me, my boss Ben Buckley and the president Frank Lowy at least ten times that Jack was asking for his wife’s pearl necklace. I was told by Ben Buckley to buy one and get it to her, which I did. I purchased it at a shop in Dubai en route to Zurich as I had a ten-hour stopover. It was on a 50% sale in Dubai and it cost around $1,000.”
Mersiades said the pearl pendant for Mrs Warner was purchased after the bid rules were issued.
“At the time I bought them I sent a note to my boss and to Frank Lowy more or less saying I felt very uncomfortable buying this necklace at this time as it fell outside the FIFA guidelines. I don’t consider a $2,000 gift to be incidental but the reaction to the note was to be told not to write a note like that again. Buckley told me off about it!”
She said Australia also flew Trinidad and Tobago’s Under-20 team to a training camp in Cyprus at a cost of about $250,000.
The value of Russia’s largesse was reported to be over $100,000—hardly the incidental value described in the FIFA-issued bid rules. The former Soviet power picked up a tab said to be over $100,000 for a four-day visit to Russia for Warner, his wife Maureen and two aides, according to documents claimed to have been seen by Trinidad Express newspaper.