Soccer

Jack Warner, indicted amid FIFA probe, had ties to Canadian soccer

Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner turned himself over to police Wednesday shortly after they issued an arrest warrant at the request of authorities in the U.S., where he was one of 14 people linked to international soccer indicted on corruption charges.

Trinidad and Tobago native arrested, will stay in jail overnight

Former FIFA vice-president and CONCACAF president Jack Warner resigned under a cloud from those organizations and his national association in 2011. (Cris Bouroncle/AFP/Getty Images)

Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner was expected to spend Wednesday night in jail after surrendering when police issued an arrest warrant at the request of U.S. authorities, who filed corruption charges against him and 13 others tied to international soccer.

Warner appeared in court, where a judge read 12 charges against him and then granted him $2.5 million bail on certain conditions, including that he surrender his passport and report to police twice a week. Warner did not enter a plea and is scheduled to appear in court again July 12.

Police said there was a delay in processing Warner's bail and he was expected to spend one night in jail.

The attorney general's office in Trinidad and Tobago said it had been working with the U.S. Justice Department for about a year regarding the investigation of Warner, who was forced out of FIFA in 2011 over a bribery scandal.

Warner, who is an opposition member of Parliament in the twin-island nation, can be extradited to the U.S. under a bilateral treaty following a hearing.

"Mr. Warner is entitled to a fair extradition process and both the requesting and requested States intend to abide by the provisions of the treaty to ensure that Mr. Warner's rights are respected," the attorney general said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, Warner denied any wrongdoing, as he has previously when confronted with allegations that he enriched himself while an official with the global soccer governing body and as a president of CONCACAF, the federation's North American regional organization.

Warner, who left soccer in 2011 to avoid FIFA sanctions during that year's FIFA presidential election, said he was not questioned in the investigation that led to the indictment and to guilty pleas on related charges for two of his sons.

"I have been afforded no due process and I have not even been questioned in this matter," he said in a statement. "I reiterate that I am innocent of any charges. I have walked away from the politics of world football to immerse myself in the improvement of lives in this country where I shall, God willing, die."

In a brief phone conversation with The Associated Press, Warner declined to comment further and said he did not have enough information about the guilty pleas of his sons to comment. "I can't say anything about what I don't know about."

Warner represents the constituency of Chaguanas West in Parliament. His term is due to expire when the session ends June 17.

Canadian connection via CONCACAF

Kevan Pipe, former chief operating officer of the Canadian Soccer Association, credited Warner for helping land the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, which was tied to the building of BMO Field.

"None of this would have happened without the complete, committed support of Jack Warner, who really went — in my estimation — above and beyond in his support for Canada to get this thing done," Pipe said in a 2007 interview. "It all boiled down to if we didn't build this stadium, this championship wouldn't have come. And none of this would have occurred without the political support that we had from Day 1 from Jack Warner."

The success of FIFA's inaugural women's under-19 tournament in 2002 in Canada prompted the CSA to look for other targets.

On Aug. 31, 2002, the night before the U-19 women's final in Edmonton, the CSA hosted a dinner with Warner, FIFA president Sepp Blatter, then deputy prime minister Anne McLellan and secretary of state Paul Devillers among others.

The CSA used the occasion of McLellan's birthday to float the idea of a FIFA U-20 World Cup bid, linked with the construction of a national soccer stadium in Toronto and an MLS franchise as the "anchor tenant" to help pay the bills.

In 2004, it was Warner who gave Pipe the news that Canada had won the right to host the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, in a 3:30 a.m. phone call from FIFA headquarters in Zurich.

Four years earlier, Warner was not so kind towards Canada. In a remarkable September 2000 interview in his Port-of-Spain office, Warner showed his he couldn't wait to see Canada lose to his native Trinidad and Tobago in an upcoming World Cup qualifying match.

"I'll take extreme pleasure," he said. "Not special [pleasure], special is too mild. I wear the CONCACAF hat, but [Sunday] I won't."

Warner said Canada hadn't deserved to win the CONCACAF championship. Canada had beaten T&T 1-0 en route to the Gold Cup win.

"Nothing Canada has done since the Gold Cup has given me any cause for worry. ... I expect them to come with all their guns firing, but they only have blanks," he said.

"I don't know any other way," Warner said when asked about his unflattering comments. "My strength — or weakness as you wish to look at it — is in my candour."

​In Warner's 1988 biography "Upwards Through the Night," by Valentino Singh, then FIFA president Joao Havelange wrote in the foreword: "His knowledge of world football is unsurpassed and his uncanny ability to quickly solve potentially uncomfortable situations paints a picture of a witty and highly intelligent man. His charisma and love for life are all part of the package that makes him one of the best men to have on any team."

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