By Andrew WarshawDecember 17 - Former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner insists Mohamed Bin Hammam would have had a "great chance" of beating Sepp Blatter in last year's FIFA Presidential race had bribery allegations not derailed his campaign.
Published on Monday, 17 December 2012 12:00
Bin Hammam was banned for life by FIFA but ultimately had that decision overturned in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
In its ruling, the CAS opened the door for a further investigation, which Michel Garcia, FIFA's recently appointed Ethics Committee investigator, initiated but closed last week after failing to uncover new evidence.
Warner (pictured top), who allegedly set up the notorious meeting in his native Trinidad and Tobago where the bribes — thousands of dollars in cash handouts — were claimed to have taken place, resigned from football after himself being charged rather than face the full glare of publicity.
But he now says he feels vindicated by FIFA's decision to close the investigation — even though he chose to walk away.
Warner, who was FIFA's longest serving vice-president, 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.
"Bin Hammam had a great chance of being the new FIFA President."
Bin Hammam (pictured above, right, with Blatter) is still provisionally suspended and has until mid-January to answer charges of financial mismanagement while he was President of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Warner, who at one point seemed to be firmly in the Blatter camp but appeared to switch sides on more than one occasion, said he always knew that neither he nor Bin Hammam had committed any offence during the infamous Caribbean Football Union (CFU) meeting in Trinidad and Tobago in May 2011 when the bribes were allegedly made to CFU members, a number of whom were also subsequently sanctioned by FIFA.
In his home country, where he is a Government Minister, Warner said he had been "maligned and vilified" over the case with critics calling for him to be dismissed in what he termed "a witch hunt".
"Because of the false allegations, my family and I were the subjects of much harassment and persecution, which unfortunately continue to this day," he continued.
"I sincerely hope that with this announcement, we will finally have some much-deserved relief."
In a trademark Warner (pictured above, left, with Bin Hammam) rant, he was quoted as lashing at out at original investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh, sarcastically referring to "the very gifted former boss of the FBI" without actually naming him.
He "was unable to find any proof for the totally asinine assumptions and allegations FIFA had come up with at first," says Warner, "aided by dirty and disloyal people who spat into the FIFA bowl from which they ate for years.
"Where there is nothing to find, you cannot find anything.
"Except if you plant it there."
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