Latin America & Caribbean

Jack Warner: Ex-Fifa chief at centre of storm

Jack Warner 26 February 2009 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption One of football's most influential powerbrokers - now accused of decades of corruption

Jack Warner rose from a job as a school teacher to become one of the most influential men in world football.

The man known as "Trinidad Jack" is accused by the US justice system of corruption over a period of more than two decades as he became the leader of Caribbean and North and Central American football.

A key supporter of outgoing Fifa president Sepp Blatter, he became a Fifa vice-president in 1993. The US Department of Justice alleges that from this point, he began to exploit his position for personal gain.

Mr Warner exerted massive influence because of the nature of Fifa's internal power structure. Despite his region Concacaf (the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) not being a football powerhouse, the sheer number of small nations it represented gave it huge voting power - 41 votes out of 209 Fifa members. By contrast, South America - which has produced nine of the 20 World Cup winners - has 11 votes.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption David Beckham lobbied Mr Warner to support an England World Cup bid

Essentially, if you needed something from Fifa, then you probably needed Mr Warner's support. His patronage was seen as vital to any World Cup bid.

Not only a football powerbroker, Mr Warner is also an influential Trinidadian politician, at one point serving as minister of national security. However, in 2013 he broke away and formed his own party, the Independent Liberal Party.

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Media caption"I never accepted a bribe," Jack Warner tells the BBC

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Those who have met him describe a softly spoken man, one you would not look twice at on the street. Not charming but businesslike in his demeanour - a man who knew exactly the power he wielded.

The English Football Association sought his help in attempting to secure the 2018 World Cup, with the heir to the British throne Prince William holding a one-on-one meeting with Mr Warner. Later, during a parliamentary enquiry, FA officials accused Mr Warner of soliciting bribes.

At one point a row broke out over the FA's gift of a £230 Mulberry handbag to Mr Warner's wife. Mr Warner returned it, saying the gift "resulted in the tainting of her character and mine".

'Our business is our business'

Among many allegations, some of the most striking are the claims that bribes were paid to member nations in return for supporting Fifa presidential candidate Mohammed Bin Hammam, who was attempting to unseat Sepp Blatter in 2011.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Jack Warner with Pele, Nelson Mandela and Samuel Eto'o

Mr Warner, who had withdrawn support from Mr Blatter, allegedly gave delegates from different countries a total of $600,000 in bribes - in the form of envelopes stuffed with $40,000 in cash. The US indictment says that when one of his colleagues expressed concern, Mr Warner said:

"There are some people here who think they are more pious than thou. If you're pious, open a church, friends. Our business is our business."

This allegation first surfaced in 2011 and Mr Warner was suspended by Fifa as it investigated the claim.

However, this investigation was eventually dropped after Mr Warner resigned as Fifa vice-president in 2013. What analysts described as a deal was summarised by a a Fifa statement which said "all ethics committee procedures against him have been closed and the presumption of innocence is maintained".

Family man

Family is key to Mr Warner, with his wife Maureen travelling with him to meetings around the world.

In 2006, the BBC's Panorama revealed that his family-run business had sold tickets on the black market for that year's World Cup tournament in Germany.

Fifa subsequently ordered Simpaul Travel to make a $1m donation to charity to "compensate for the profits it had made through resale of 2006 Fifa World Cup tickets".

But family could also prove to be his downfall. His two sons are co-operating witnesses in the US justice department investigation, so could well end up testifying against their own father.

However, Mr Warner still appears confident his innocence will be proved. After leaving a Trinidadian prison on bail following his arrest at the request of the US authorities, he regaled a crowd with his own rendition of Bob Marley's Every Little Thing's Gonna be Alright.

The US charges against Jack Warner:

  • Racketeering conspiracy (Count 1)
  • Wire fraud conspiracy - CFU World Cup Qualifiers Scheme #1 (Count 9)
  • Wire fraud - CFU World Cup Qualifiers Scheme #1 (Count 10)
  • Wire fraud - CFU World Cup Qualifiers Scheme #1 (Count 11)
  • Money laundering conspiracy - CFU World Cup Qualifiers Scheme #1 (Count 12)
  • Money laundering - CFU World Cup Qualifiers Scheme #1 (Count 13)
  • Wire fraud conspiracy - 2011 Fifa Presidential Election Scheme (Count 23)
  • Money laundering conspiracy - 2011 Fifa Presidential Election Scheme (Count 24)