Sightings of former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner aren’t easy to come by these days in Trinidad and Tobago where the disgraced lawmaker is facing U.S. fraud, racketeering, and money-laundering charges in the biggest scandal to hit world soccer’s governing body.
But on Thursday, Warner, 72, showed up at the Arouca police station in Port-of-Spain, where officials are requiring him to check in twice a week after seizing his passport and being notified that he had been placed on Interpol’s most-wanted list.
Trinidad Attorney General Garvin Nicholas said the police check-ins are a necessity to ensure that Warner doesn’t flee the oil-rich, twin-island nation in the eastern Caribbean. Nicholas said officials have feared that Warner would flee before his July 9 court date, and the police checks are an insurance against that happening.
Warner is among 14 senior FIFA and sports-marketing executives who were indicted last month in a wide-ranging U.S. corruption probe. Seven were arrested in Switzerland while attending the Federation Internationale de Football Association’s governing board meeting and elections. They are accused of being involved in a $150 million bribery and racketeering scheme.
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Warner is, among other things, accused of taking $10 million in bribes in exchange for helping South Africa secure the right to host the 2010 World Cup. After U.S. prosecutors sought his extradition, Warner was arrested on a provisional warrant and released a day later after posting $395,000 bail. He left jail in an ambulance and headed to a political rally organized by his Independent Liberal Party, where he defended himself by accusing the U.S. of being out for payback because it had lost out to Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.
Days later, Warner continued his attacks against the U.S. This time, he cited an article by the satirical news outlet The Onion in a video as proof of the U.S. campaign against him. Warner seemed to have been unaware that the article was a fake report while brandishing a copy of it.
But the jokes haven’t stopped there. On Thursday, FIFA announced that its spokesman, Walter De Gregorio, had decided to resign. No reason was given, but the announcement came after De Gregorio was asked by a Swiss TV journalist if he had a favorite FIFA joke and gave one about the possible arrest of President Sepp Blatter.
The joke came the day before British comedian John Oliver mocked Warner on Trinidad television after buying four minutes of airtime on TV6, Trinidad’s largest private broadcaster. Ripping off of Warner’s “The Gloves Are Off,” broadcast in which he promised to reveal information about FIFA’s dealings, Oliver titled his segment, “The Mittens of Disapproval Are On.” During the Tuesday night spot, Oliver called on Warner to make good on his threats to reveal all he knows about FIFA and Blatter, who has announced his intentions to resign amid the scandal.
While Warner’s antics have provided a few laughs, over in the Cayman Islands and in South Florida they aren’t laughing.
On Wednesday, the Miami-based Inter American Press Association (IAPA) condemned a decision by legislators in the Cayman Islands to withdraw official advertising from the Cayman Compass newspaper in retaliation of its coverage of the scandal, which has also ensnared the head of the Cayman Islands Football Association, Jeffrey Webb.
A beloved figure in the Cayman Islands, Webb was among the seven who were arrested in Switzerland after prosecutors unsealed the 47-count indictment in the corruption probe. Webb had served as president of the association since 1991, and had been tapped to replace Warner as vice president of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football when he was forced to resign in 2012.
Webb’s arrest surprised Caymanians. The island’s business and political leaders have said little about the scandal, something the Compass pointed out in the June 1 editorial “When ‘no comment’ is the wrong comment.”
But that’s not the editorial that has gotten government officials mad. It was another on June 3 that criticized Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin and other local officials for allegedly engaging in acts of corruption, among them one related to the FIFA soccer scandal.
“He put a target on my back, to my mind,” Compass publisher David Legge told The Washington Post, his former employer before moving to the Caymans 25 years ago. “And my wife’s as well.”
The Post reported that the couple had to flee to Ft. Lauderdale after McLaughlin said the editorial was akin to a “treasonous attack” on the island and its people.
IAPA President Gustavo Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, condemned “the lack of independence of the legislators who, in order to ingratiate themselves with the Premier, approved the suspension of placing official advertising and any other commercial activity with the islands’ sole newspaper, directly impacting freedom of expression and the people’s right to have access to information of public interest.”