National Security Minister Jack Warner claims he has been vindicated now that football's governing body, Fifa, has closed its investigation into allegations that Mohamed bin Hammam, former president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), paid bribes to Caribbean officials. Warner resigned from Fifa and all forms of football two months after the allegations were made, while Bin Hammam was banned for life.
The claim was that bribes were paid during a Caribbean Football Union (CFU) meeting in Port-of-Spain in May 2011. "Because of the false allegations, my family and I were the subjects of much harassment and persecution, which unfortunately continue to this day. I sincerely hope that with this announcement, we will finally have some much-deserved relief," Warner said yesterday.
The investigation by Michael J Garcia, chief ethics investigator with Fifa, has been closed after failing to find new evidence. Last July, Bin Hammam's lifetime Fifa ban was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) due to insufficient evidence. He remains provisionally suspended over allegations of financial mismanagement while he was AFC president but his legal team has launched a challenge to that suspension in the Swiss courts.
Garcia's decision to close the investigation into the Caribbean allegations is contained in his confidential report to Fifa. It states: "With respect to the events at the CFU conference, the investigation uncovered no new material proof beyond the substantial evidence presented during the proceedings that culminated with the CAS decision vacating Mr Bin Hammam's ban.
"Accordingly, the investigatory chamber has closed this matter, consistent with the CAS panel's guidance regarding newly-discovered evidence." Commenting on this development, Warner said: "I must really extend sincere congratulations to my former colleague in Fifa for taking the battle all the way to CAS.
"This happened at a time when he was challenging for the presidency of Fifa. It is unfortunate that these allegations derailed Bin Hammam's chances which I thought were very good." Warner said as a result of the allegations he had been "the subject of abuse by commentators and persons in the media with an axe to grind, and those with political affiliation with the Opposition People's National Movement (PNM)."
Warner said he had no intention of returning to Fifa, as he had played his role as a member of the Fifa executive for 29 years. In July, a CAS three-man panel voted 2-1 in Bin Hammam's favour but said his behaviour was "not of the highest ethical standard" and that "it is more likely than not" that he was the source of cash brought into T&T and distributed by Warner.
CAS said then: "It is a situation of 'case not proven,' coupled with concern on the part of the panel that the Fifa investigation was not complete or comprehensive enough to fill the gaps in the record."