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Ex-Fifa Vice President Jack Warner: "The envelopes with cash were gifts"

US investigators consider Jack Warner to be one of the prime suspects in the FIFA corruption scandal. stern magazine was invited to talk to him at his party. The interview ended abruptly.

Jack Warner gestures after leaving the offices of the Sunshine Newspaper which he owns, in Arouca, East Trinidad

Jack Warner gestures after leaving the offices of the Sunshine Newspaper which he owns, in Arouca, East Trinidad

Arriving at the parliament building in the afternoon, his first order of business was to apologise for having been absent for a day. He had been in prison. Jack Warner, age 72, is one of the most powerful men in the Caribbean Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. He and his family own hotels, apartment buildings, shopping centres and countless other companies. In 2013 he formed his own political party, the Independent Liberal Party (ILP). Prior to that he was works and transport minister and served as the country’s deputy prime minister. At present, Warner and his cronies occupy the opposition benches. His declared goal is to overthrow the acting head of government, yet until recently he and and the Prime Minister, Mrs Persad-Bissessar, were allies. Warner was FIFA’s vice-president for 14 years before being suspended and forced to resign in 2011 amid allegations of bribery. US investigators consider him to be one of the prime suspects in the FIFA corruption scandal and have charged him with several counts of fraud, money laundering, bribery and corruption. Last week Warner was arrested in the country’s capital, Port of Spain, but was freed only a day later after bail was set at 2.5 million Trinidadian dollars (around 310 000 euros). It is considered highly unlikely that he will be extradited to the US. Last weekend he celebrated with more than 200 supporters and friends. stern magazine was invited to the party. After the festivities, Jack Warner agreed to an interview in a gloomy back room. It ended abruptly.

stern: Mr Warner, you have just been partying along with about 200 of your friends. Are you a happy man tonight?
Warner: Nearly all of my nights have been happy.
Does that also include last night, which you spent behind bars?
Warner: It was an unusual night. I was locked in a cage, but I was treated with respect. And that was important. I had books and was allowed to watch TV.
Did you get any rest?
Warner: No, I didn’t sleep a wink.
So you must have had plenty of time to read the long indictment by the US-attorney general. Loretta Lynch accuses you of fraud, bribery, money laundering and serious corruption.
Warner: I don’t read stuff like that.
Why not?
Warner: Lynch is an American. I have no faith in Americans. They forfeited that with their application to host the Football World Championships. They’re biased.
Do you seriously believe that?
Warner: The Americans still have a score to settle with me.
But there is evidence against you!
Warner: Which evidence?
In your case, the indictment lists numerous charges. You paid bribes! You laundered money and you committed fraud. See here on page 81...
Warner: Who did I bribe?
It says here that you were responsible for distributing cash payments totalling ten million dollars among officials in 2004 to ensure they voted to secure the World Cup for South Africa.
Warner: That’s all hearsay!
You sent one of your associates to Paris to collect bundles of cash, each with 10,000 dollars, to bring them back to Trinidad.
Warner: The fact is, I sent a man to France. He returned with a suitcase. I don’t know what was in it. The suitcase wasn’t for me. So what does all of this have to do with me?
On another occasion you distributed 25 envelopes, each containing 40,000 dollars, to football officials at the Hyatt Hotel in Port of Spain in an attempt to buy votes. The idea being to bolster the campaign of the Qatari Sheikh bin Hammam to take over as the new FIFA boss in 2011.
Warner: The envelopes with the cash were gifts. Someone else handed out the envelopes. I, Jake Warner, never carried any envelopes.
But you made sure that a total of one million dollars was distributed. You allowed the bribes to happen on your behalf.
Warner: Why don’t you give it a break! I tell you, when you get to my age stupidity really gets on your nerves. Anyone who wanted to could have returned the envelope.
Is Sepp Blatter corrupt?
Warner: I only know this: he was elected FIFA boss five times in succession. Is he corrupt? I don’t know.
If anyone knows, then it has to be you. You spent 30 years together with him pulling strings and doing deals.
Warner: I haven’t spoken to Blatter in years. Four years ago I tried to force a regime change among the FIFA leadership against Blatter’s will.
Which explains the envelopes filled with cash.
Warner: At the time, my assistant told me that we had funds available here in subsidy coffers. I said to him: then distribute it. After all, Blatter does exactly the same. He’s been doing so for years. Day after day.

"Jack Warner won't fall into a trap"

But surely it’s unusual for someone to be distributing envelopes with 40,000 dollars at a conference?
Warner: I’ll say it again: it was not an unusual occurrence at FIFA. Okay. So Sheikh Bin Hammam flies to Trinidad in his private jet with a suitcase filled with one million dollars in small bills. He manages to smuggle all that money through customs. He approaches you and asks: Jack, how can we put this money to good use?
Warner: Now wait a minute! At the time I was in a Minister’s meeting and I told my general secretary: “Help him!” What the hell does that have to do with me? I am sick and tired of talking about things based on hearsay and rumours. That is what it says in the indictment that you refuse to read. Chuck Blazer, who worked as your general secretary at the time, reported everything to the US investigators in return for leniency.
Warner: As yet I haven’t been questioned by any US investigator. Why not? Why don’t you fly to New York tomorrow morning. The investigators would be only too glad to pick you up at the airport.
Warner: I know. And that is why someone like Jack Warner won’t fall into that trap. Should Sepp Blatter hand in his resignation now?
Warner: If I were his age...
He’s 79.
Warner: ...I’d retire and pass the presidency of the FIFA on to someone younger. But everyone has different ideas of what to do with their lives.
You’re 72 years old. Word around parliament in Trinidad is that you want to become prime minister. Is that true? At your age?
Warner: No, that’s not what I want.
Oh really? But aren’t you currently trying to overthrow the present government because it did nothing to prevent you from having to spend a night in gaol?
Warner: It is true that I want a regime change in Trinidad.
You claim to have provided financial support to the current prime minister during the election campaign. Did that really happen? After all, she belongs to a different party.
Warner: I can prove it.

"Just give the games to the Americans!"

Bribery, pardon me, distributing gifts: you have everyone in your pocket, don’t you?
Warner: Next question.
I spent the morning in your neighbourhood of Arouca. You have many fans and friends there. People say: Jack Warner is like Robin Hood, he takes from the rich and gives to the poor.
Warner: I like to help.
At the party tonight, a video message was shown from a young woman. She came from a very poor family, just like yourself. You funded her education allowing her to become a doctor.
Warner: Yes.
I also observed tonight how you slipped bank notes to people. It is said that you’re always doing that.
Warner: Yes. I help people.
There was a man with a placard standing outside parliament today demonstrating against rampant corruption in Trinidad. His name is Kirk Waithe. He said of you: "Jack Warner is a common thief. A crook and a cheat. Jack Warner is corrupt, he wouldn’t be able to survive under the proper terms of law and justice."
Warner: That’s his opinion. Next question.
Is it true that you approve of the death penalty?
Warner: Yes.
Executions are currently on hold. How many death row inmates are behind bars in Trinidad?
Warner: Around one hundred.
And you want all of them to hang?
Warner: Not those already convicted. Just the new cases.
In China corruption is punishable by death...
Warner: I’m not Chinese. And we aren’t in China.
Will the World Cup in Qatar go ahead?
Warner: Why shouldn’t it?
Because revelations in the coming months will show the true extent of the bribery and corruption. And because that will cause the mood to shift. There is already talk in Europe of a boycott.
Warner: You in America and Europe think that football belongs to you. Am I right?
No.
Warner: You cannot bear the fact that a Muslim country, and an Arabian country at that, gets to host the World Cup. Am I right?
No.
Warner: Neither Germany, and certainly not the United States, have an automatic entitlement to the World Cup.
Nobody has ever claimed as much.
Warner: Just take the games! Give them to the Americans. And then we’ll finally have peace. They rule the world.

"Football is such a fair sport"

You seem extremely angry with the USA.
Warner: Yes, I’m furious because nearly the whole world allows itself to be intimidated by the Americans. At FIFA there is no justification for that. Every country has a vote. Whether it is large or small, rich or poor. The USA have just as much to say as China or Trinidad and Tobago. So why should we be afraid of the USA?
FIFA and football have made you a very rich man. You are a multimillionaire. If you look back critically, what would you do differently today?
Warner: I should never ever have entered politics in Trinidad.
To me you seem like the quintessential politician. You spent all day on the go, in your constituency, in parliament, and now at your party.
Warner: My country is fickle and volatile. One day people love you, and the next day they’re out to kill you. There is no sense of loyalty in this country.
Perhaps because corruption breeds precisely that?
Warner: Next question.
When looking back, I take it you would still want to work at FIFA?
Warner: I love football. It’s such a fair sport. You can be fat or thin, big or small. Rich or poor. You can always play football. It always gives you a chance.
And now you’re partly responsible for the fact that everyone immediately thinks of bribery and corruption when the Football World Cup is mentioned. Am I right?
Warner: Your questions are beginning to annoy me. Why are there no investigations in Asia, or in Europe? Why are there no investigations into Sepp Blatter? No other person has brought so much shame and disgrace on FIFA.
You’re avoiding the issue. Even your two sons, Darryl and Daryan, have been charged with money laundering and the structuring of financial transactions. The money probably originated from the sale of World Cup tickets. Your sons have already pleaded guilty and cut a deal with the prosecutors. Reportedly, Daryan has paid a fine of one million dollars. Am I right?
Warner: My sons deposited money in bank accounts below the reportable threshold of 10 000 dollars. It was said that they did that too often.
That’s commonly known as “money laundering”.
Warner: Any other questions?
Yes. Are you really a happy man tonight?
Warner: Your questions make me angry. You’re a troublemaker.
(Jack Warner stands up and leaves.)

Norbert Höfler

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