The minister said he was “not aware of any wrongdoing” on his part in relation to the allegations which stem from meetings he had with Bin Hammam earlier this month in Trinidad and which have now resulted in Warner and three others being summoned to a hearing of the FIFA ethics committee at Zurich, Switzerland on Sunday.

Newsday understands that Warner has already called in his legal team and was last night due to meet with attorney Om Lalla to give instructions in relation to the developments.

In a statement yesterday morning, Warner suggested that the timing of the new allegations could be part of a smear campaign ahead of upcoming FIFA presidential election and said he was unaware of the particulars of the claims against him, Bin Hammam and two others, but he confirmed that he had been summoned to attend a hearing of the committee.

“I take note of the initiative by FIFA’s ethics committee and confirm that I have been invited to attend a hearing this week Sunday, May 29, 2011, in Zurich,” Warner said in the statement made in his capacity as CONCACAF president. The statement was emailed to local media by an advisor to the minister at the Ministry of Works and Transport.

“I am unaware of the particulars of the matter being investigated by FIFA at this time, so I will therefore abstain from any comment until such time as I have been made aware of all that has been submitted to FIFA.”

Warner, a FIFA vice-president, did not immediately answer phone-calls.

In his statement, Warner recalled that he, this month, held meetings with Bin Hammam, the president of the Asian Football Confederation, after Bin Hammam was unable to attend a crucial CONCACAF congress in the United States (US) because Bin Hammam was denied a US visa. (Although Qatar-born Bin Hammam holds a diplomatic passport, he reportedly said on a blog that he was denied a US visa due to an “administrative error”. One of his aides reportedly said his passport was returned by US officials without a crucial stamp that completes the visa.)

“It is informative to note that the CONCACAF, at its congress in Miami on May 3, was informed of Bin Hamman being unable to get a US visa to attend and that, as an alternative, he (wanted) to meet the delegates in Trinidad on May 10,” Warner said. “What I can say at this time is that I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part and I shall listen to allegations made and respond accordingly.”

With the FIFA presidential election due on June 1, Warner questioned the timing of the allegations which were reported to FIFA on Tuesday by American Chuck Blazer, the CONCACAF general secretary and a FIFA executive member. Tuesday also marked exactly one- year since Warner–and the People’s Partnership Government–were victorious at the general election.

“It is interesting to note the timing of these allegations and the hearing scheduled days before the FIFA presidential election,” Warner said. “As this is now a formal procedure, I shall not be offering any further comment prior to the hearing on Sunday.”

The election to the post of FIFA president has pitted Bin Hammam against incumbent Sepp Blatter who is seeking a fourth term.

Up until this week, Warner, who has in the past endorsed Blatter, had not openly endorsed Blatter for the post this time around, but has held meetings with and assisted Bin Hammam.

FIFA has acted after receiving a report from Blazer regarding Bin Hammam and Warner’s conduct at the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) meeting at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain between May 10 and May11. Also charged are two CFU officials, Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester.

Blazer is a long-standing colleague of Warner and has been credited in some circles with bringing Warner to CONCACAF and the realm of regional football associations. This will not be Warner’s first appearance before the ethics committee.

Warner last appeared before the committee over a ticketing scandal in relation to the 2006 World Cup.

FIFA, in a statement, said, “On 24 May 2011, FIFA executive committee member and CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer reported to FIFA secretary general J?r?me Valcke possible violations of the FIFA code of ethics allegedly committed by officials.”

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“In particular, the report referred to a special meeting of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), apparently organised jointly by FIFA vice-president Jack A Warner and FIFA executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam, which took place on 10 and 11 May, 2011. This meeting was linked to the forthcoming FIFA presidential election.

“(Warner, Bin Hammam and the two CFU officials) have been invited to take position by 27 May, 2011 and to attend a hearing by the FIFA Ethics Committee at the Home of FIFA (Zurich) on 29 May, 2011.”

“In view of the facts alleged in this report, which include bribery allegations, FIFA secretary general J?r?me Valcke, in compliance with Article 16 of the FIFA code of ethics, yesterday requested the FIFA ethics committee to open ethics proceedings.”

“Subsequently, the FIFA ethics committee today, 25 May, 2011, opened a procedure against the following officials: FIFA vice-president Jack A Warner, FIFA executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam, CFU official Debbie Minguell, CFU official Jason Sylvester.”

The FIFA code of ethics has two offences in relation to “bribery”.

Article 11.1 of the code notes that, “officials may not accept bribes; in other words, any gifts or other advantages that are offered, promised or sent to them to incite breach of duty or dishonest conduct for the benefit of a third party shall be refused.”

Article 11.2 notes, “officials are forbidden from bribing third parties or from urging or inciting others to do so in order to gain an advantage for themselves or third parties.”

In a statement to his personal website Bin Hammam made clear his views that the allegations are part of a smear tactic linked to the FIFA presidency race.

“This has been a difficult and painful day for me today,” Bin Hammam said. “But, if there is even the slightest justice in the world, these allegations will vanish in the wind. This move is little more than a tactic being used by those who have no confidence in their own ability to emerge successfully from the FIFA presidential election.”

“I remain deeply indebted to Mr Warner for his sense of fair play because without his support and understanding I would not have been able to meet with several important member associations of FIFA to discuss my election manifesto.”

“Here, I completely deny any allegations of wrongdoing either intentionally or unknowingly while I was in the Caribbean.”

“I will speak to Mr Warner on this subject and offer him my full support in ensuring we are discharged honourably by the FIFA ethics committee, a body which I hold in the highest esteem,” Bin Hammam said.

Persons who are subject to an ethics investigation are sometimes asked to not speak with other parties.

Bin Hammam continued, “I am confident that there is no charge to answer and that I will be free to stand in the FIFA presidential election on June 1 as originally planned.”

“I will have no further comment to make on this matter until after I appear before the FIFA ethics committee and I would like to apologise to all members of the media in advance for not being able to discuss this issue with them until the conclusion of the hearing.”

The allegations will throw the presidential race up in the air just a week before the vote in Zurich.

FIFA announced that the ethics committee chairman Claudio Sulser will not oversee the proceedings because he shares Swiss nationality with Blatter, Bin Hammam’s presidential rival, and this could be construed as a conflict of interest. The meeting will instead be chaired by the committee’s deputy chairman Petrus Damaseb, a judge from Namibia.

The new investigation follows a separate inquiry launched earlier this month by FIFA into claims made in the UK parliament regarding the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups last year.

The former FA chairman Lord Triesman alleged during a culture, media and sport select committee hearing that he had witnessed “improper and unethical” behaviour by some– including Warner–during his time as England’s 2018 World Cup bid chairman.

Triesman, who was sacked from his FA post after the UK failed in its World Cup bid, alleged that Warner asked for cash to build an education centre at Chaguanas in 2009, before Warner was a government minister.



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