Former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner left a Trinidad jail by ambulance on Thursday, a day after he was charged in a U.S. corruption case that has led to the arrests of more than a dozen international soccer officials and businessmen.
Judicial officer Ibrahim Ali said Mr. Warner complained of exhaustion and was not able to face questions from reporters gathered for several hours outside the jail in this twin-island Caribbean nation.
But a short while later, Mr. Warner donned a cap and a garland of flowers to give a lengthy, defiant speech before a crowd of raucous supporters in the district he represents as an opposition member of Parliament.
“If I have been thieving FIFA money for 30 years, who give me the money? How come he is not charged? Why only persons from Third World countries have been charged?” Mr. Warner said, drawing hoots and applause from partisans wearing green-coloured shirts of his Independent Liberal Party.
Mr. Warner surrendered to authorities on Wednesday and was granted a $395,000 bond but spent the night in jail. He faces eight counts in the U.S., including conspiracy to defraud and to engage in racketeering. He has not entered a plea and is expected to appear in court in July 2015. A judge ordered Mr. Warner to surrender his passport and report to police twice a week.
Mr. Warner was forced out of FIFA in 2011 over a bribery scandal but has denied any wrongdoing.
Trinidad’s attorney-general, Garvin Nicholas, said the U.S. has two months to issue a formal extradition request. He said his office has been working with the U.S. Justice Department for about two years on the investigation of Mr. Warner.
U.S. justice officials allege, among other things, that Mr. Warner received three payments totalling $10 million in 2008 from an unidentified, high-ranking FIFA official. They said the money was deposited in a U.S. account controlled by Mr. Warner.
Authorities say the money was allegedly offered to secure Mr. Warner’s vote and help give South Africa the right to host the 2010 World Cup over Morocco. South Africa’s Sports Minister on Thursday denied any wrongdoing by his country’s government.
Mr. Warner also faced scrutiny from FIFA over a sports complex he built in Trinidad more than a decade ago with financial help from the organisation and whose ownership has been disputed. The Centre of Excellence features a soccer field, a pool and several meeting halls, including ones named after FIFA president Sepp Blatter and former South Africa President Nelson Mandela.
Messages left with the centre’s officials were not returned. The centre regularly hosts conferences, weddings, soccer matches and other events.