PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) Monday called on the Commissioner of Police to continue the probe into bribery allegations against Works and Transport Minister Austin Jack Warner, who tendered his resignation as vice president of the International Football Federation (FIFA).
In a statement following the surprise announcement by Warner that he had quit his post with FIFA that had suspended him pending the outcome of an Ethic Committee probe, the PNM said that the “resignation must in no way deter the Commissioner of Police from pursuing thorough investigations into determining whether any persons may have broken our currency laws or aided and abetted others to so do.
“It is now to be seen whether FIFA will cooperate with the Commissioner of Police in maintaining FIFA allegations against parties and supply the Commissioner with the requested information or whether it will continue to protect “family members” in the finest traditions of the “cosa nostra” code of silence,” the PNM said.
Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs said he had written to FIFA asking for assistance to probe the allegations and recently told reporters that he had not yet received a response from the world governing football body.
FIFA said that as a result of “Warner’s self-determined resignation, all Ethics Committee procedures against him have been closed and the presumption of innocence is maintained”.
A brief statement on the FIFA website Monday said that Warner had resigned from his post in international football effective immediately.
“FIFA regrets the turn of events that have led to Mr Warner’s decision. His resignation has been accepted by world football’s governing body, and his contribution to international football and to Caribbean football in particular and the CONCACAF confederation are appreciated and acknowledged,” the FIFA statement said.
The resignation was prompted by an allegation against the 67-year-old football supremo that he and former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam had offered US$40 000 to national associations of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) at a meeting in Trinidad on May 10 and 11, in return for their votes in the FIFA presidential election on June 1.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had said she would stand by her embattled senior minister, who is also the chairman of the United National Congress (UNC), the leading member of the People’s Partnership coalition.
“I have said I will not prejudge the matter at this time and unless there is evidence to the contrary, we stand with Mr Warner,” Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar told reporters.
The PNM said that “as a Minister of Government in Trinidad and Tobago Mr. Warner’s resignation from FIFA comes one year too late.
“His voluntary withdrawal from FIFA occasioned by the recent international scandal which saw the FIFA President being elected unopposed is meant to protect his position in the Cabinet and preserve his control of Trinidad and Tobago football, a scenario which would not have been tenable if a completed FIFA enquiry resulted in any necessary sanctions against him by the world governing body of football.
“It is because the Opposition always understood that ethics and integrity are alien concepts in the operations of FIFA, which is widely regarded as a corrupt organisation, why we have focused our attention on determining whether Trinidad and Tobago laws have been broken by functionaries of FIFA and the CFU who were alleged by FIFA to have conducted corrupt FIFA business within our borders.”
In a statement, Warner said that the decision to resign “ is by my own volition and self-determination; albeit it comes during the sequel to the contentious Mohammed bin Hammam meeting in Port of Spain in May with CFU Delegates.
“I am convinced, and I am advised by Counsel, that since my actions did not extend beyond facilitating the meeting that gave Mr. Bin Hammam an opportunity to pursue his aborted bid for the FIFA presidency, I would be fully exonerated by any objective arbiter.
“I have, nonetheless, arrived at the decision to withdraw from FIFA affairs in order to spare FIFA, CONCACAF and, in particular, CFU and its membership, from further acrimony and divisiveness arising from this and related issues.”
Warner, who served international football for nearly 30 years, said he was “gratified that FIFA has acknowledged my service to international and regional football over several decades.
“It is also a special source of satisfaction to me that during my tenure, capacities and facilities in the Caribbean were upgraded to levels that enabled the region to host several FIFA World Cup Finals.
“I sincerely hope that the Caribbean Football Union will continue to fight above its weight in FIFA and CONCACAF affairs,” he added.
Warner said that with his resignation he would be “concentrating exclusively on my lifelong commitment to the service of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, currently as Chairman of the major party in our governing coalition and as a Cabinet Minister in the Government of our Republic.
“I shall continue to encourage the youth of the Caribbean and the world to deepen their involvement in football, which has lifted so many young people out of hopelessness and risk to personal achievement, while bringing glory to their respective countries,” he added.