(Trinidad Express) Works Minister Jack Warner said he would rather “die first” than meet with former Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) director Louis Freeh, who has been retained by FIFA to investigate allegations of bribery within the organisation.
Warner has refused to meet with the former director, citing his (Freeh’s) American nationality and his possible link and friendship with fellow American and whistleblower Chuck Blazer. Warner blamed Blazer for the controversial allegations, saying he (Blazer) sought to undermine Warner’s 30-year association with FIFA.
Warner said he would cooperate with the on-going investigations into bribery allegations against Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam and Caribbean Football Union’s executive coordinator Jason Sylvester and assistant to the general secretary, Debbie Minguell, but would not meet with Freeh.
Om Lalla, Warner’s local lawyer and “legal mouthpiece”, yesterday confirmed that Warner was contacted by FIFA’s ethics committee, but said Warner would not be attending the meeting.
“He has been contacted, but the hearing is at the end of June and Mr Warner would be unavailable to attend at this stage, ” Lalla said in a telephone interview yesterday.
This was at odds with a media statement sent by FIFA yesterday, which confirmed that Warner was willing to “appear as a witness in the continuing ethics committee investigation into bribery claims”.
The release said Warner would be investigated as a witness “but not as an accused party,” adding that Warner “offered his support to the ethics committee”.
After Warner resigned on Monday, FIFA released a statement saying that “as a consequence of Mr Warner’s resignation, all ethics committee procedures against him have been closed and the presumption of innocence is maintained”. FIFA also said Warner would continue to be “involved as a witness in the continuing investigation into the allegations against Bin Hammam and the Caribbean associations”.
When asked if Warner did not want to attend the meetings because of his refusal to meet with Freeh, Lalla would only say, “Mr Warner would not be meeting with anyone.”
Lalla also dismissed the calls from the Opposition for Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs to pursue the local investigation into Warner’s bribery allegations.
“Gibbs has done the best and only thing that he could do, which is to write to FIFA. He cannot really do anything else at this point,” Lalla said.
A source yesterday revealed that Warner was asked to be in Zurich, Switzerland, from June 22 to 24, but told the ethics committee that he was unavailable on those dates and for the month of July.
“The committee can push back the hearing to accommodate Warner’s schedule or can proceed with the hearing without his contribution. This move though could push the hearing outside of Warner’s suspension and any extension that FIFA may impose though, so only FIFA knows what they are going to do after that,” he said.