GENEVA (AP) — FIFA had “compelling” evidence that Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner conspired to bribe voters in the organisation’s presidential election before it suspended them from world soccer’s governing body.FIFA’s ethics committee concluded that the allegations bin Hammam offered $40,000 cash payments to Caribbean officials “constitute prima facie an act of bribery.”
A report into Warner’s case, seen by The Associated Press, said the then-FIFA vice president was an accessory to bribery who offered “mere self-serving declarations” at a hearing last month.
The 17-page document was sent last week to Warner, a 28-year veteran of FIFA’s ruling executive committee who led the North, Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF) regional body since 1990.
Days later, the Trinidad and Tobago government minister quit his soccer positions while insisting that he would have been “fully exonerated by any objective arbiter.”
The damning language in the ethics panel’s report stands out in contrast to FIFA’s official stance on Warner’s investigation, which was dropped on Monday.
FIFA said it no longer had legal authority to pursue Warner and that he kept “the presumption of innocence.”
FIFA declined to comment Wednesday on the leaked report, which was first revealed by Britain’s Press Association news agency.
Calls to Warner’s lawyer in Trinidad, Om Lalla, were not answered.
Bin Hammam and Warner were suspended by FIFA’s ethics committee on May 29, based on evidence relating to the Qatari candidate’s campaign visit to meet Caribbean Football Union members at a hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Hours before the hearing, bin Hammam withdrew from the election scheduled for four days later against FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
The ethics panel, headed by Namibian judge Petrus Damaseb, studied witness statements from officials representing four Caribbean federations who were allegedly offered brown envelopes stuffed with $100 bills after hearing bin Hammam’s election pitch on May 10.
“It appears rather compelling to consider that the actions of Mr. bin Hammam constitute prima facie an act of bribery, or at least an attempt to commit bribery,” the report said.
The panel found “comprehensive, convincing and overwhelming evidence” that Warner arranged the meeting specifically to enable corruption. It was “impossible” to think Warner was unaware of the payments and their intention to influence how CFU members voted.
“Consequently, the accused (Warner) would at least be considered as an accessory to the aforementioned violations,” the report said.
Officials from the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands provided witness statements that were “coherent, credible and detailed,” the panel decided.
The whistleblowers said Warner told delegates that “the cash gift had been provided by Mr. bin Hammam.
“The accused further stated that he had advised Mr. bin Hammam to bring the cash equivalent of any gift he intended to bring to the delegates,” the report said.
Warner, meanwhile, “failed to provide the FIFA Ethics Committee with a plausible explanation” to refute the allegations.
The panel justified the suspensions, pending a full inquiry, because officials suspected of bribery would cause “irreparable damage to FIFA” if they remained within the organisation.
Though Warner is out of reach of its judicial bodies, FIFA is seeking to interview him as a witness in the ongoing probes into bin Hammam and two CFU employees alleged to have handed over the payments. All deny wrongdoing.
Bin Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation president, has appealed his provisional suspension and awaits a hearing date from FIFA.
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