Trinidad and Tobago Works Minister and ex-FIFA Vice President Jack Warner is a central figure in a fresh financial scandal after an exclusive report by the UK Sunday Times revealed that close to $4.4 million (US$690,000) donated by FIFA and South Korea never made it to the Federation of Haitian Football (FHF).
Warner, in his capacity as CONCACAF and Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president, collected $4.76 million (US$750,000) on behalf of Haiti after the Caribbean island was stunned by a massive earthquake on 12 January 2010.
The Haitian government estimated that 316,000 persons were killed including over 30 football officials as the FHF building was reduced to rubble.
However, FHF Yves Jean-Bart told Sunday Times reporters, James Corbett, Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake that only $381,000 (US$60,000) made it to grief-stricken nation from the aid money allegedly given to Warner.
“Warner always told me your money is there, is available, any time,” Jean-Bart told the Times, “but I didn’t get it.”
Wired868 attempted to contact Warner by phone but the Chaguanas West MP has not yet responded to enquiries.
FIFA today confirmed to Wired868.com that it wired $1.6 million (US$250,000) to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) account to be used as emergency aid in Haiti.
The TTFF has been unable to properly account for the missing money and, as a result, FIFA will stop funding the local football body until further notice.
“We can confirm that FIFA wired immediately after the devastating earthquake USD 250,000 as an emergency aid for Haiti to the account of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF),” the FIFA Media Office told Wired868. “This was on request of the then CONCACAF President Jack Warner and subsequently transferred to the TTFF account, in order to immediately provide support to Haiti.
“FIFA can also confirm that it had been informed by the Haiti Football Association (FHF) in autumn 2011 that it had only received USD 60,000 of this emergency aid.”
FIFA further informed Wired868 that the TTFF will feel the brunt of its sanctions for failing to account for the money.
“Consequently FIFA, in a letter, requested in October 2011 a full explanation from the TTFF into those funds,” stated FIFA. “As FIFA has not received any satisfactory response FIFA has stopped with immediate effect any payments to the TTFF until it will receive proper accounts of these funds allocated as an immediate relief support to the FHF.”
FIFA provides each member association with an annual subvention of $1.6 million (US$250,000).
The FIFA Media Office did not respond to Wired868 query as to why Haiti’s aid money was sent through the TTFF and not via a CONCACAF or CFU account.
Wired868 emailed the TTFF for response and, allthough an official acknowledged receiving the email, the local body is yet to reply.
Warner toured Port-au-Prince in January 2010 and told Haitians that sport will play its part in helping the restoration of one of the world’s poorest nations.
Apart from FIFA aid, wealthy South Korean businessman and politician, Chung Mong-Joon, who is also a former FIFA vice president, donated $3.2 million (US$500,000) to Haiti’s relief fund. South Korea was bidding to host the 2022 World Cup at the time.
“It is a humanitarian crisis,” said Warner. “Sport is a vehicle for social transformation… Let us share this hope with Haiti so she can rise again.
“FIFA understands its role in inspiring a nation… Let us use sport to ignite hope.”
Warner further promised to coordinate aid efforts for Haiti.
“My friends have told me that they are hungry and in need of basic human supplies,” said Warner. “A tide of hungry humanity surrounds me. How can I not hear their cries for help?
“When I return home I will personally embark on a food drive to get you these supplies.”
Haiti felt that Warner’s actions fell well short of his noble words and complained to FIFA last year.
FIFA subsequently released $2.4 million (US$379,500) to aid the restoration of Haitian football from a special projects fund and provided the FHF with a technical consultant for one year to help set up football development programmes there.
The Times claimed sources close to the Korean Football Association provided payment details that showed their aid money initially went to a CONCACAF bank account in Trinidad. This money also allegedly failed to reach Haiti.
It is unclear whether South Korea or CONCACAF will attempt to locate and recover this funds.
FIFA’s decision to cut funding for the TTFF is another untimely blow to the local body that is fighting half of the 2006 World Cup team in High Court and losing.
The “Soca Warriors” seized all of the TTFF’s removable assets last Wednesday in an effort to service a $4.6 million debt that the organisation failed to satisfy in October 2011. Thirteen 2006 World Cup players, the TTFF and its former President Oliver Camps return to court on Tuesday.
Warner’s disinclination to provide financial accountability will again be a talking point as the ex-FIFA vice president failed to follow Justice Devindra Rampersad’s instructions to provide, by 10 February 2012, written accounts of all income, donations, gifts, grants, benefits and expenditure related to the 2006 World Cup.
The Works Minister, who quit FIFA last June while a subject of bribery allegations, was also subjected to a recent audit by the Finance Ministry over his handling of the Program for Upgrading Road Efficiency (PURE) although the results have not yet been made public.
In the case of the allegedly misplaced Haitian funds, it seems that the TTFF will absorb the brunt of FIFA’s punishment.