Three days after a CONCACAF ethics panel accused Jack Warner of enriching himself through fraud, the former CONCACAF president and FIFA executive committee member resigned from his position as national security minister of Trinidad & Tobago.
Warner tendered his resignation to T&T Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Sunday night merely 11 months after she raised eyebrows by naming Warner to the position. Warner’s resignation followed CONCACAF’s release of a 113 page report into allegations of financial mismanagement by Warner and ex-general secretary Chuck Blazer.
In the report committee member David Simmons accused Warner of misappropriating at least $15 million by compensating himself with CONCACAF funds without authorization after his last contract expired in July 1998. Simmons’ investigation also found that Warner did not disclose to CONCACAF or FIFA that a $25.9 million Center of Excellence, which is no longer as asset of CONCACAF, was built on land owned by his companies. Among other complaints Warner was also accused of mismanaging nearly $1 million in FIFA funds slated for a reconstruction project in Haiti.
Warner is no stranger to allegations of fraud and controversy. In June 2011 he resigned as CONCACAF president after he was accused of attempting to bribe Caribbean delegates $40,000 each to vote for then-Asian confederation head Mohamed bin Hammam in the election for president of FIFA. Those allegations compelled Warner to give up his powerful position on FIFA’s executive committee. By walking away Warner avoided having to face a FIFA Ethics Commission inquiry.
Given Warner’s checkered past many people were surprised when Persad-Bissessar appointed the ex-soccer powerbroker as security minister of T&T. Shortly after the appointment Warner was sharply criticized for dispatching troops and riot police to remove a protest camp built by environmentalists. He also made headlines by announcing his intent to stop the release of crime reports and statistics, arguing that publicizing such information only encouraged more crime.
For Trinidadians, Warner’s resignation was a long time coming. “The ceaseless allegations have been going on too long,” said Winford James, a political analyst and newspaper columnist. “They have affected the public psyche, which has been under siege. It will hurt the government – the PM took too long – but will win some friends for her that some action has been taken.”
The report previously prompted Blazer to stand down from his position as an executive committee member of FIFA after detailing that the American received more than $20 million in compensation from CONCACAF, including $17 million in commission. An election held last Friday confirmed that Sunil Gulati, the current president of the United States Soccer Federation, would be replacing Blazer. Gulati won the vote 18-17, defeating runner-up FMF President Justino Compean, of Mexico. Gulati will formerly replace Blazer on May 30, 2013.
With the removal of Warner from his position of power within Trinidad & Tobago and Blazer from FIFA one hopes the region can begin to march forward in a positive manner, both politically and athletically. By reducing the corruption within CONCACAF and FIFA, relations should begin to improve with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who has made clear his dissent of soccer in the region.