Chapter 8: Sepp buys votes with FIFA’s money
JACK STEALS. He is a career thief and it has made him a multi-millionaire. To hide his stealing, he lies. He lies to his colleagues in football, he employs a bookkeeper in his homeland to pose as an auditor and lie for him.
For more than 30 years Jack Warner stole tens of millions of dollars from FIFA.
Sepp Blatter always knew but would pay any price – and it wasn’t his own money – to bribe Warner into delivering 35 crucial votes at Presidential elections.
Most of those votes came from compliant officials in Caribbean Islands without professional football and dependent on FIFA handouts in public and World Cup tickets in private.
Their region is known as Concacaf, the continental confederation controlling football in the Caribbean and Central and North America. It is insignificant in the global game – only two nations made it to the second round in 2010 in South Africa and then went out – but hugely powerful in the politics and corruption.
Concacaf became Warner’s powerbase.
Those 35 votes, alongside the 50-plus from Europe, and as many again from Africa and nearly that total from Asia are pivotal when the 209 national football associations are called to vote on FIFA’s presidency.
So any demand by Warner had to be conceded.
João Havelange helped set up Warner’s rackets in the 1990s but when investigators asked him for assistance in March 2013, to verify some of Warner’s wilder claims, Havelange claimed he was too ill.
Two months later Havelange was forced to quit his FIFA Honorary Presidency as the ISL bribes scandal finally caught up with him.
Fast forward six weeks from his humiliating exit from world football Havelange was miraculously recovered and in good enough health to enjoy a splendid lunch and two bottles of wine with Sepp Blatter in a Rio restaurant, guarded by 16 policemen, even as the tear gas was swirling around Brazil’s stadiums.
I told the story of Warner’s rise through Caribbean football in Foul! but, restrained by London lawyers, had to give generous credit to the defences and explanations of Chuck Blazer, Warner’s American partner in crime.
In Chapter 9, I’ll reveal the truth about Blazer’s stealing, hand in hand with Warner and again, with the knowledge of Blatter.
Warner, a history teacher in Trinidad, manipulated himself to the top of Caribbean football and in 1983 that won him a seat on FIFA’s Executive Committee – the ExCo. Havelange, tutored by Rio’s organised crime boss Castor Andrade, spotted and nurtured this new and malleable talent.
Warner would deliver whatever Havelange and Blatter needed. A crucial need for them in 1989 was that the USA must qualify for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. The next tournament in 1994 would be in the USA and it was essential to build media interest in a country where football was low on the sports agenda.
Warner held the key. He controlled Trinidad football. To the delight of the entire country the national team was one game away from qualifying for Italy the next year.
All they had to accomplish was a draw with the USA at Trinidad’s national stadium on 19 November 1989. Trinidad had a skilful team and was tipped to win, even more than the required draw.
Warner saw his chance for eternal gratitude from Zurich. He did everything possible to make life difficult for his team, providing them with the worst training facilities he could get away with.
There was a curious change of match officials shortly before the game. Warner needed chaos at the stadium – and saw a chance to enrich himself illicitly at the same time. He printed 45,000 tickets for the stadium that could only hold 28,500 fans.
On match day the Trinidad team had to be lifted over the heads of the angry thousands with tickets but locked out of the stadium.
Trinidad fans have forever contested the referee’s decisions but all that mattered was that the Americans scored one goal, Trinidad didn’t score any and the marketing of 1994 was secure.
Chuck Blazer from New York, already a football official, was as keen as Warner to climb the FIFA tree. Ignoring the defeat and misery in Trinidad they conspired in 1990 to seize control of Concacaf. Warner became president and immediately appointed Blazer as general secretary. Two decades of robbery began.
HOW COULD he steal millions of dollars from FIFA and Concacaf and be sure that Zurich would look the other way?
Warner pondered how to pull off the big heist and made his first move in March 1995, paying US$1 million for a plot of land in Tunapuna, on the road to Piarco airport.
He was not out of pocket for long. Three months later he announced that Concacaf needed a Centre of Excellence – known as the CoE – for training the region’s players and FIFA would pay for everything.
Quietly, in February 1996, his family-owned company Renraw (Warner spelled backwards) was incorporated. The following month Renraw spent US$314,460 acquiring a second plot at Tunapuna.
Warner was building a property empire – and it didn’t cost him a cent. A month later Concacaf held its Congress and Warner told delegates that the purpose of the CoE was to ‘help raise the quality of Concacaf soccer.’
FIFA President Havelange was present and the minutes record that he congratulated Warner ‘for his vision in building the Concacaf Centre of Excellence in Trinidad.’
Havelange’s enthusiasm was understandable. He would be leaving FIFA’s presidency in two years time and he needed Warner to swing his 35 votes behind Blatter at their congress in Paris.
They dare not lose control of world football or allow anybody not in their corrupt gang to get access to FIFA’s archives and discover the truth about Havelange’s looting.
It would be a tough fight — the worryingly honest challenger, Sweden’s Lennart Johansson, would be backed by UEFA. The money poured in to Warner’s new businesses. He was a man who could be bought — if the price was right.
It was a high price for the global game but Havelange happily turned on Zurich’s money tap. In January 1996 FIFA sent US$250,000 to Trinidad. Two weeks later FIFA sent another US$1,700,000.
The money was gushing and in April FIFA sent US$500,000 and another US$500,000 in May. Yet another US$500,000 followed in June and the same amount again August. 1996 was a great year!
In September Warner registered a new, private business in Trinidad – the ‘C.O.N.C.A.C.A.F. Centre of Excellence.’ He could then set up bank accounts in a name suspiciously similar to the real thing. He did and they sucked in money intended for the development of the CoE.
But he wanted more.
Warner told Havelange that Concacaf needed a bank loan for the construction and in 1997 FIFA guaranteed a US$6 million loan from the Swiss bank UBS. In April UBS, which held FIFA’s accounts, handed over the first US$2 million, another US$2 million followed in August and yet another US$2 million in November.
How was this money to be repaid to FIFA?
It wasn’t. In May 2003 FIFA’s finance committee — Warner was deputy chairman — agreed to write off the loan.
Football paid, again.
At the end of the first round of construction Warner held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and gave the Centre a new name. It became the Dr João Havelange Centre of Excellence.
This kept up the lie that it belonged to football – not secretly to the Warner family.
In the forecourt Warner erected a circular structure modelled on a Greek temple and between the pillars was a bust of Havelange. It was topped off with a globe and a huge Concacaf banner. As more money was hi-jacked over the years the Centre grew.
Today it is fronted by a glass-walled fitness centre where the island’s middle classes pay to use exercise bikes, weights and all the apparatus of an expensive leisure centre – the Warner family-owned, FIFA-funded health club.
Behind it in the FIFA-funded but Warner-owned complex is Le Sportel Inn with 44 rooms and two penthouses. The Nelson Mandela Room is for business seminars. Next to it are a series of large halls rented out by the Warners for conventions, wedding parties and industrial shows, a swimming pool rented out to schools and clubs – and the Marvin Lee football stadium, named after a local player who died after an horrific injury in an international game.
FIFA’s regional Development Officer ordered that an artificial surface was laid on the pitch at a cost of US$800,000.
It was perfect for all weather football and became the home of the Warner family-owned Joe Public professional team. The FIFA official was Warner’s second son, Daryll.
The Centre’s website continues the lie that this private facility is associated with Concacaf.
Warner took money with both hands from every possible source. Even as he was building up the CoE he made sure that his Concacaf office in Trinidad was sucking in more cash. Between 1996 and 2003, monthly payments to run the President’s Office ranged from US$10,000 to US$25,000.
From 2004 to 2011, the payments increased and ranged from US$25,000 to US$45,000 per month. Over those 15 years Warner scored more than US$5.3 million to run an office that also handled his political and business activities.
THEN WARNER WAS off to France for the coronation of Sepp Blatter and the 1998 World Cup – and more crude thieving.
Warner wanted to be as far away from his FIFA colleagues as possible and he arranged to be based in Marseilles. With his wife Maureen he checked into the Sofitel hotel.
The police discovered later that on the morning of June 23 Warner went to a post office and dispatched a parcel for him to collect later in Paris. That evening they watched Norway beat Brazil 2 -1.
When they returned to the Sofitel they had a shock for the management.
A burglar had broken into their room!
US$35,000 worth of Maureen’s jewels had been stolen!
US$30,000 in cash belonging to Jack had been taken from his locked case!
Call the police!
The police did their best but was it was the perfect crime. There was no forensic evidence, no forced door or luggage locks, no strange fingerprints. Warner had the only key to his case.
The only member of staff who had a copy of the electronic door key was a reliable under-manager of 20 years standing. The police talked to him for a few hours – and let him go.
Local reporters say that the police realised the truth of this bogus robbery but decided, for political reasons during the World Cup, to drop the investigation and not prosecute Jack.
I heard the story and emailed Warner with some questions.
Why had he and Maureen not asked the hotel management to put the cash and jewels in their safe?
Why was he carrying so much cash?
How did he acquire it? (If he ever did have so much money, he would have got it from Black Market ticket sales.)
Did he have any idea how his case of money was opened?
Why was his wife travelling to a soccer tournament with such a quantity of jewellery?
Warner did not reply.
It was unlikely that the Sofitel’s insurers would have paid a customer who had left US$65,000 of cash and jewels lying around his room. But Warner knew that there was somebody who would pay.
Six weeks after the ‘robbery’ FIFA’s insurers paid up. The German company got huge business from FIFA and it was sensible to pay off such a powerful member of the ExCo.
WARNER returned from France and helped himself to more of FIFA’s money. His Renraw company purchased the third and final plot of land for the CoE for US$392,775. He wrote to FIFA saying that it had cost US$640,000.
They sent the money. A quarter of a million dollars profit for one simple, lying email!
In regular reports to FIFA, Warner listed the CoE as a Concacaf asset. Warner reported to the Concacaf executive committee that this latest land acquisition was ‘recently acquired’ for them.
It was a lie. None of them dared to check public land records to find out the truth.
From the beginnings of this vast crime Warner assured both FIFA and Concacaf that they owned the land. All the millions of dollars supposedly invested in regional football were in truth building a huge leisure empire on land owned by the Warners for the family to operate, profitably, for themselves.
FIFA had paid for the land and the construction. They had given Warner an asset he could use as security for borrowing money. In September 1998 he approached Trinidad’s First Citizens Bank and borrowed US$475,000. He got his accountant Kenny Rampersad to co-sign the loan deed.
In Trinidad, Rampersad had to tell the truth to the bank; that the property belonged to Renraw and another Warner company.
Rampersad was also employed by Warner to prepare financial reports for Concacaf. He told a different story in his report for the same period, that the property was a Concacaf asset.
Warner told the same lie, repeatedly, to Zurich. When FIFA asked where they should send money to, Warner said, send it to an account named ‘C.O.N.C.A.C.A.F. Centre of Excellence. This was one of his private accounts.
WARNER WAS OFFERED every opportunity to steal and he took every one, year after year. Nearly US$5.6 million was provided to the CoE by Concacaf’s New York office between 2000 and 2011.
How was it done?
From 2000 to 2003, Concacaf sent US$1,260,000 in 23 separate wire transfers to a bank account at First Citizens controlled by Warner and named the ‘Dr João Havelange Centre of Excellence.’
Typical payments were US$50,000. Beginning in April 2004, Concacaf wired US$50,000 to this account every month. In 2011, the last period of his gross embezzling, the amount increased to US$75,000 per month.
FIFA played its part. On top of the US$15,950,000 already paid, Zurich threw in an additional US$10 million for further development of the Centre. This had to be repaid so Warner for four years declined the US$2.5 million that FIFA donated every year for regional football development between 2003 and 2006.
The money should have been distributed around the region.
Warner sent FIFA’s Head of Finance a letter, dated December 20, 2001, ‘authorizing’ FIFA to transfer the first two installments of US$2.5 million in ‘assistance to this Confederation for each of the years 2003 and 2004 . . . for the operations and development of our Centre of Excellence.’
He instructed Zurich to send the money to an account at the First Citizens bank. That account is a personal one in the full name of ‘Austin Jack Warner.’ This stealing was rubberstamped by the Finance Committee, the members of the ExCo, the Internal Audit Committee and auditors KPMG.
SEPP BLATTER was worried at the 2002 World Cup. If he was going to continue charging the world’s television networks vast amounts to screen the tournament he had to have full stadiums. The problem was the Korean people. They patriotically attended every match played by the Korean team.
But would they be interested in buying tickets once their team was eliminated? Baseball and basketball were as popular as football. Blatter turned to his match officials to help keep the stadiums full.
In the second round Korea faced Italy, always formidable opponents. Even more formidable, for the Italians, was referee Byron Moreno, from Ecuador. He awarded a strange penalty to Korea after only four minutes – but it was saved.
Then the game went well for Italy with a goal from Christian Vieri after 18 minutes. Apparent victory was stalled at 89 minutes when Korea levelled.
Just before half-time in extra time Francesco Totti was brought down in Korea’s penalty box. Replays showed that Italy should have been awarded a penalty. Instead Moreno sent off Totti for diving. In the second half Damiano Tommasi’s golden goal was disallowed, again to incredulity of fans worldwide.
Three minutes before the end of extra-time, Ahn Jung-Hwan leapt above the Italian defence to head in the golden goal. Korea went through to meet Spain in the quarter-finals. Their luck couldn’t hold, could it?
Spain found themselves playing against Korea, referee Gamal Ghandour and linesman Michael Ragoonath from Trinidad, nominated for the tournament by the reliable Jack Warner.
Spain scored in the second half; the referee disallowed it. The match went to extra time. Spain’s Fernando Morientes scored but up went Ragoonath’s flag. A goal kick was awarded. Replays proved him wrong.
Spain won a corner in the last minute of extra time but the referee blew for full time a minute early, before they had a chance to take it. Korea won the penalty shoot-out and went through to the semi-finals.
Edgardo Codesal, who refereed the final of World Cup 1990 resigned in disgust from the referees’ committee.
Codesal alleged in the Mexican press later that pressure was exerted to appoint Ragoonath for the Spain v Korea game.
Codesal also criticised Warner for hugging Kim Dae-Jung, the Korean President, directly after their victory over Spain. Warner later said that he was ‘glad that Korea won,’ and in a rare moment of truth, admitted the result was ‘better for TV.’
Ragoonath had to know that if he displeased Warner, his career was over. He would never travel again out of Trinidad on football business.
Germany knocked out Korea in the semis. These days Blatter says FIFA is cracking down on match-fixing.
WARNER USED HIS STOLEN MILLIONS to fund one of Trinidad’s two main political parties, the United National Congress – the UNC. It gave him huge power in a small island. But he hated belonging to a party in opposition. Elections were due in early November 2007 and Warner came up with a master stroke to win popular approval.
He would fly to South Africa with UNC party leader Baseo Panday, demand an audience with Nelson Mandela and extract from the great man his blessing for the UNC in the election.
That would stun his opponents in Trinidad. Surely Mandela would agree after Warner insisted that he had delivered crucial votes at FIFA’s ExCo to give South Africa the 2010 World Cup. Mandela owed him.
Blatter thought so too and FIFA issued a confident press statement that ‘Jack Warner paid a whistle-stop visit to South Africa today to meet with Nelson Mandela as well as executives of the country’s Premier Soccer League.’
The impression was given that Warner was leading a FIFA delegation.
Mandela, now aged 86, was protected by his bodyguards from scavengers like Warner.
When Warner arrived he was told that he would have to sign an agreement that he would not ask Mandela for anything and the meeting could not be political. He hesitated – how could Mandela say No to him, the great Jack Warner?
It was fatal arrogance. He was not allowed anywhere near Mandela.
Mandela’s spokeswoman told reporters,
‘We assumed that the delegation was part of a FIFA working group. Mr Warner did not see Mr Mandela, as he was not in agreement that Mr Mandela could not be approached to endorse an election campaign or a candidacy.’
Panday did sign and got a few moments of courtesy and some photos with Mandela. Then he was out too, without a blessing for the UNC.
Under the headline FIFA official “makes up” visit to Mandela’ South Africa’s Sunday Times reported that Warner ‘was left red-faced…after being shown the door’ by Mandela.
Back home in Trinidad the press were also amused at the arrogant Warner’s discomfiture.
‘This is the last week before the election, and I do not want to be sidetracked by anything,’ he said abruptly in a brief telephone interview.
The UNC lost the election.
In 2013, when Mandela died, Warner would have been expected to rush to South Africa to be seen rubbing shoulders with world leaders at the funeral. Instead, he stayed home in Trinidad. The widespread belief was that if he left the island he might be arrested abroad for involvement in fraud, money laundering and bribery.
WARNER NEVER MISSED an opportunity to use his power at FIFA to make countries racked by cultures of corruption and bribery crawl to him. It also helped if they were rich in oil.
Blatter gave him the potentially lucrative position of chair of the FIFA committee that allocated the Under-17 FIFA World Cup.
Warner knew Nigeria’s incredibly corrupt Amos Adamu, Director General of the Nigerian National Sports Commission. (Adamu later joined FIFA’s ExCo and was kicked out in 2010.)
Not surprisingly Warner selected Nigeria to host the 2009 Under-17 championship. Adamu’s Local Organising Committee presented the Government with a bloated budget of 35.5 billion Nairas.
This was greed too far and under threat of withdrawal, the budget was slashed by three-quarters to 9 billion Nairas.
Warner was soon playing FIFA’s usual racket. They wait a while and then attack the host country for being too slow, hoping to force the Government to put more fat into the budget, to be shared out between contractors and FIFA officials.
The pressure was ratcheted up in early 2009. Firstly, Warner was his brutal self.
‘I have always had faith in Nigeria but at the moment that faith is not there,’ he told Nigerian reporters. ‘I cannot go back to FIFA and say yes, Nigeria is ready, because plenty still has to be done before we get to that stage. If Nigeria doesn’t get its act together, Nigeria won’t host it.’
That didn’t impress the locals and one day later Warner tried an emotional outburst.
‘I love Nigeria more than even some Nigerians . . . I‘m appealing to all Nigerians to match the facilities with the faith I have in the country. I believe you can do it; please don‘t let me down.’
One of Nigeria’s leading newspapers, the Guardian, was not prepared to tolerate this whining greed from Warner. A few days later it published a scathing editorial.
‘It is absurd that this FIFA Vice President Mr Jack Warner is so passionate about Nigeria hosting this FIFA event and that he speaks to Nigeria in patronisingly gratuitous terms that suggest his organisation is unaware that this tournament ought not to be the priority of Nigeria at this stage of our political and social economy.
‘Apart from the forbidding cost, he must be aware that this event was foisted on Nigeria through very mischievous means and, for that matter, the objectives of this cadet championship are so spurious and irrelevant to Nigeria now and in the near future.
‘Nigeria was presented a dodgy fait accompli after it was brazenly blackmailed by self-serving civil servants in contravention of every civil service guideline, and in connivance with FIFA that it must host this tournament willy-nilly.’
The Guardian continued that there were better ways of spending the budget. It could instead go towards ‘rehabilitating the gas supply pipeline to assure Nigerians of better energy delivery . . . or the computerisation of 200 secondary schools in Nigeria.
‘The stark truth is that Nigeria should steer away from the FIFA Under-17 tournament. Mr Warner should not deceive Nigeria to spend her very scarce resources to suit his organisation’s priorities and save FIFA the disingenuous task of blackmailing Nigeria in these very difficult times.’
Brazilian football fans and politicians might do well to learn this editorial by heart.
June 4, 2009: Nassau, Bahamas: Warner erupted. His iron-clad fiefdom, the Caribbean Football Union, part of Concacaf, was under challenge. Peter Jenkins, a football official from the islands of St Kitts and Nevis, population 53,584, had the audacity to stand for election as a delegate from the CFU to Concacaf against the incumbent, ‘Captain’ Horace Burrell from Jamaica.
Burrell’s only noticeable contribution to world football had come in 1996 at the FIFA congress in Zurich. When the delegate from Haiti had been prevented from attending Burrell, with the complicity of Warner and his entourage from the Concacaf region, had broken all FIFA’s voting rules and put his girlfriend Vincy Jalal in the empty seat, to vote as Warner instructed.
Peter Jenkins argued that small nations like his should have a voice at Concacaf. Warner said this opinion was ‘divisive and unacceptable.’ Of course his power at FIFA was based on his collection of small island federations, most without professional football, but whose votes counted equally with the big footballing nations of Latin America, Europe and Africa.
Warner would not tolerate elections at Concacaf. He urged delegates not to support Jenkins.
Channelling his inner Joe Stalin, Warner said, ‘I am very critical of the fact that Caribbean football is split over a candidate, which is unprecedented, and this is what we have fought against over the years,’ he said.
Jenkins was contravening their ‘political conventions.’
Burrell was one of Warner’s closest associates in the Caribbean, frequently nominated for prestigious positions in FIFA.
If he could be challenged, cracks might be seen in Warner’s absolute power. Warner’s response was ruthless. He ordered that Jenkins should be expelled from all football positions in his homeland. It was the same for the regional bodies.
‘I have instructed the general secretaries of both the CFU and Concacaf to remove you forthwith,’ he wrote to Jenkins.
Burrell added that he felt ‘disrespected’ by Jenkins. Another of Warner’s sycophants, Colin Klass from Guyana, said he too questioned Jenkins’ intentions.
‘I had serious concerns as I am sure that Peter is aware of the system that we have and he has chosen to ignore it for apparently personal reasons and I must say that what he is experiencing is the price one pays for their actions.’
Klass was ejected from football in the Concacaf scandals that began in May 2011.
Warner’s iron fist slammed down on two national associations, Antigua and Grenada, who initially gave Peter Jenkins their support.
‘They will be written to and be asked to submit reasons why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for their attempts to destabilise Caribbean football and Caribbean solidarity within the CFU,’ said Warner. ‘If their explanations are not satisfactory, disciplinary proceedings shall be instituted against both countries.’
One of Jenkins’ supporters pointed out that FIFA donated US$10 million every four years to develop football in the Caribbean but ‘the Leeward Islands, Windward Islands and Netherland Antilles received none of it.’
Jenkins had the courage, if fatal, to ask about the FIFA grants disappearing into the belly of the CoE. Burrell, Klass, America’s Sunil Gulati and Jeffrey Webb, the rising star from the Cayman Islands, were silent.
It would be another four years before independent investigators confirmed that all the money, year after year, had been siphoned off by Warner through his false Centre of Excellence bank accounts.
THE WORLD CUP was the most exciting time for some members of FIFA’s ExCo. Not the football; it was the competition every four years between well-funded bidding countries that could be induced to pay bribes.
The evidence is that bribes were paid every time during the campaigns going back to the bitter battle between Japan and Korea to acquire 2002. It is more complicated than simply figuring who sold their vote to the winner.
Many losers have been stung. There’s no evidence that South Africa paid to host 2010, but plenty of evidence that some rivals did. They were tricked – but can hardly demand their money back.
If Qatar did pay bribes to host 2022 – and there is no solid proof yet – a smart operator like Warner, who had to be seen to vote for the USA, a member of Concacaf, would still have seen an opportunity.
It is to be expected that he floated the idea in Doha that the last thing Qatar needed was enemies at FIFA. Warner, controlling three vital votes, could make big problems behind closed doors.
Pay me, he would have demanded.
Both Warner and Blazer found it essential to meet President Vladimir Putin in Moscow before the vote in December 2010. Putin wanted the prestige of hosting 2018 and, as importantly, the construction industry wanted more contracts.
The Sochi Olympics had been a bonanza for corruption. Now the Oligarchs wanted the rich banquet of new football stadiums. My own sources in the Russian construction industry tell me that the big companies would pay what was required to win the vote.
A few million dollars upfront would soon be absorbed when the contracts were skimmed.
THE ONLY bidder to allege corrupt demands in the contest to host 2018 and 2022 was England’s David Triesman who headed their bid. Triesman gave evidence to a Parliamentary committee of MPs in London.
It was a great show!
(Triesman was not born an aristocrat. A former communist, he was elevated to the House of Lords by Tony Blair to be a Labour Party spokesman.)
In return for his vote Jack Warner wanted a personal cheque for £2.5 million ‘to build an education centre in Trinidad.’
Warner never stopped stealing. Later he asked Triesman for the astonishing and unbelievable amount of £500,000 to buy Haiti’s World Cup TV rights for the earthquake-hit nation, again to be channelled through him.
Warner responded that the allegations were ‘a piece of nonsense’ and added, ‘I have been in FIFA for 29 years and this will astound many, I’m sure.’
Triesman continued; Paraguay’s Nicolás Leoz wanted a British knighthood – ‘Sir Nicolás.’
Later one of his Asuncion bagman whispered it would be helpful to win his vote if the English FA Cup tournament was renamed ‘The Sir Nicolás Leoz Cup.’
Teixeira, the Brazilian vacuum cleaner, told Triesman to ‘come and tell me what you have got for me.’
Thailand’s FIFA member Worawi Makudi wanted to be given the TV rights to a friendly between England and the Thai national team. Makudi has denied the allegation.
There was a dark entertainment that day. London PR man Mike Lee, who counted among his successes winning the summer Olympics for Rio in 2016 and London in 2012 and winter games for Pyongyang 2018, testified about the kind of ‘narrative’ needed to win votes.
His latest success had been winning the 2022 World Cup for Qatar.
Lee’s self-congratulatory speech was interrupted by Conservative politician Damian Collins who informed Mr Lee that the previous day the Sunday Times had filed a memo with the Parliamentary committee containing stunning allegations about how Qatar really won.
The reporters had spoken at length (as had I and several other reporters) with a whistleblower from the Qatar bid team. She claimed to have been in a hotel room in Luanda in early 2010 when the Qatar bidders negotiated bribes of US$1.5 million each for the votes of Issa Hayatou, Amos Adamu and Jacques Anouma from Ivory Coast.
The Qatar team issued a statement denying the ‘serious and baseless’ allegations that will ‘remain unproven because they are false.’ Hayatou and Anouma also rejected the allegations. Adamu was expelled from FIFA months earlier.
WARNER’S STEALING from the Australian World Cup bid was in a class of its own. If investigators half a world away hadn’t stumbled over a half million dollar fraud, it would have remained a dirty secret known only to Jack Warner, his sleazy middleman, a few red-faced Aussies and their billionaire boss.
In August 2010 a delegation from Australia arrived in Trinidad, desperately seeking the votes of Warner and the two other Concacaf votes he controlled at FIFA. Warner took them to see a complex of buildings and sports facilities at Macoya, on the road between Port of Spain and the airport.
It was his Centre of Excellence but the Australians were fooled by the fiction that it belonged to Concacaf. To one side was the Marvin Lee football stadium. Warner told the visitors that it needed an ‘upgrade.’
A month later the gullible Australians sent Warner a cheque for the astonishing amount of US$462,200. By the time the costs of travelling and entertaining were bolted on, the bill could have been a little short of half a million American dollars.
What happened to the ‘upgrade’ money?
Warner diverted it to one of his phony ‘Concacaf’ accounts at the Republic National Bank in Trinidad. Checks by investigators could find no record of the US$462,200 in the real Concacaf accounts. The investigators concluded Warner was guilty of ‘fraud and misappropriation.’
The Australian football federation – the FFA – seemed so embarrassed that they concealed the US$462,200 payment. They never issued a press release boasting of the help they had donated to Caribbean football and it did not appear in the FFA report to the Government on how they spent a grant of US$40 million to fund the bid.
There was no mention in the FFA financial report for that year. A spokesman claimed that the money sent to Warner was allocated from FFA’s international football development budget at the time and were not part of government funds provided to the World Cup bid.
WHO GOT AUSTRALIA into this mess?
The links in FIFA’s grimy world were extraordinary. At the heart of the manipulations was Peter Hargitay, Swiss-Hungarian conman and debt-dodger. The Australians hired him to win their bid because he claimed to be close to Blatter, working as his ‘crisis manager.’
Hargitay had never worked for a bid and had no track record of success. But he was backed by Australian billionaire Frank Lowy, chairman of the FFA, on the recommendation of FIFA Ethics Committee member and Sydney television personality, Les Murray. All three men were Hungarian refugees.
It didn’t seem to matter that Hargitay was also a paid propagandist and advisor for Qatar’s now discredited Mohamed Bin Hammam who campaigned successfully against Australia for the 2022 tournament.
Hargitay persuaded his Australian clients to pay for the Trinidad and Tobago national under-20 team to attend a training camp in Cyprus.
But crucially, he was also a paid advisor to Jack Warner at the time the US$462,200 payment was extracted from the FFA.
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