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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Warner steps down as FIFA drops corruption probe

AP

GENEVA — Jack Warner quit as a FIFA vice president Monday and soccer's governing body dropped a bribery investigation of him, saying the "presumption of innocence is maintained."

News photo
Time to go: FIFA vice president Jack Warner, seen here with David Beckham last September, resigned Monday following his alleged involvement in a bribery scandal. AP

Warner and Asian soccer chief Mohamed bin Hammam were suspended by FIFA last month amid the gravest corruption crisis to rock the scandal-hit organization. The two leaders were accused of offering $40,000 cash payments to Caribbean voters during bin Hammam's failed presidential campaign to unseat Sepp Blatter.

Warner said he resigned by "my own volition and self-determination." His departure appears likely to stop his promised "football tsunami" of revelations designed to embarrass FIFA after it accused him of bribery May 25.

His decision also could help preserve his political career in his native Trinidad and Tobago, where he is a government minister. Police on the Caribbean island had said they would ask FIFA for any evidence of wrongdoing.

"All ethics committee procedures against him have been closed and the presumption of innocence is maintained," FIFA said in a statement.

Zurich-based FIFA said that under Swiss law it has no jurisdiction over someone who leaves FIFA, but stressed that its investigation automatically reopens if that person returns to soccer.

Warner said in a statement he wants to "spare FIFA, CONCACAF and, in particular, CFU and its membership from further acrimony and divisiveness arising from this and related issues."

Warner spent 28 years on FIFA's executive committee and was a vice president as head of the CONCACAF regional confederation. He stepped down days after some of his Caribbean Football Union followers were interviewed by former FBI agents enlisted by FIFA to investigate the scandal.

Warner and Bin Hammam were accused of allegedly arranging the payments in a Port of Spain hotel during the Qatari official's campaign visit May 10.

Warner said he would have been "fully exonerated by any objective arbiter" and he will now concentrate on "my lifelong commitment to the service of the people of Trinidad and Tobago."

He joined FIFA's inner circle in 1983 and seven years later was elected president of the confederation covering North and Central America and the Caribbean. The 68-year-old official was given another four-year term unopposed at the CONCACAF congress May 3 in Miami.

Bin Hammam did not attend in Miami, contending he had visa problems to enter the U.S. even though he holds a diplomatic passport. Caribbean members of CONCACAF were then summoned to a two-day conference in Trinidad to meet Blatter's election rival.

Delegates from the Bahamas, however, turned whistle-blower and alerted Warner's longtime CONCACAF No. 2 Chuck Blazer of the U.S., who commissioned a file of evidence to present to FIFA.

The dossier included statements from soccer federation officials from Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands who also declined the payments. Puerto Rico and Suriname later agreed to return their $40,000 payments as pressure on witnesses intensified. Other CFU members insisted no FIFA corruption rules were broken in Trinidad.



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