October 31 – Jack Warner, football’s most wanted man who is banned for life for corruption, has broken his silence over voting for Russia to stage the 2018 World Cup.
Warner, the former FIFA vice-president and former president of Concacaf, is one of the most senior figures in the notorious FifaGate scandal that brought the world governing body to its knees.
Still a free man in his native Trinidad, he is accused by US authorities of racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and bribery and could spend the rest of his life in prison if ongoing extradition proceedings are ultimately successful. He is estimated to have embezzled more than $40 million from his football influence.
Warner dramatically fell from grace after being banned following an investigation into the bidding contest for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
But in an exclusive interview with the Mail on Sunday newspaper, he accused the US of damaging his family and says he has no regrets about voting for Russia, despite being accused of taking a $5 million bribe. Warner at no point denies he took a bribe.
Warner, who for 30 years rubbed shoulders with all manner of footballing and political bigwigs, travelled first class and stayed in the best hotels, is said to have originally promised he would vote for England to stage 2018 after having bragged about meeting members of the royal family.
But he told the Mail on Sunday: “In the end when I sat down, I realised that England had hosted the World Cup (in 1966). Russia had never hosted and I felt it was Russia’s turn. When I sit back now I have no cause for grief because I feel I did the right thing.”
Apologising for having misled the British campaign team including David Beckham, Prince William and then prime minister David Cameron, he added: “I thought it was Russia’s time to host a World Cup and I have no regret.’
Now 79, Warner is also widely considered to have played a major role in Qatar winning the vote to stage this year’s tournament.
He says he will support England on the field next month – but not the United States.
“America has done damage to me and my family and therefore I am pained with America so I hope they get knocked out first. But beyond that, I don’t care.”
“I have insulated myself from criticism and [from] football. If not I would have been dead already. I won’t watch it and I don’t even want to hear about it. I live deliberately in a kind of cocoon. I have internally migrated, for want of a better term, and therefore these things don’t worry me any more.”
While he maintains he has had nothing to do with football, he was an advisory figure behind the group – led by his former wingman Keith Look Loy – that orchestrated the William Wallace campaign that won the presidency of the Trinidad and Tobago FA. He also put in an unsubstantiated claim for TT$7 million to the insolvency practitioner handling the TTFA’s debt problems. That claim was rejected though if it had been passed would likely have seen the funds being provided to the TTFA to settle the debt being withdrawn.
Warner claims he has been ‘harassed’ by international media since the FIFA corruption scandal erupted. “The media hates me. I can never get a fair trial. So that is why I have never spoken.”
After a long court battle, the US was told he could be extradited to face justice in 2016. However, after a series of appeals, in 2020 Warner was given final approval to challenge the extradition proceedings against him at the Privy Council, the final appellate court in London. That case was heard in May this year and a ruling is still awaited.
If Warner is extradited, he has promised a tsunami of new information on former FIFA corruption. Jeff Webb, who took literally took over where Warner left off, both as president of Concacaf and with his own series of corrupt schemes, is currently awaiting sentencing in the US. His sentencing has been postponed more than 11 times.
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