Former FIFA executive Jack Warner has surrendered to authorities in Trinidad and Tobago as a massive scandal charging top officials with bribery continues to unfold. Warner has denied any wrongdoing.
Former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner was arrested late Wednesday in Trinidad and Tobago, the latest high-profile figure to be ensnared in a sweeping corruption scandal charging top soccer federation leaders took $150 million (137 million euros) in bribes and kickbacks over more than 20 years.
US prosecutors allege Warner accepted bribes during host selections for the 1998 and 2010 World Cups, held in France and South Africa respectively.
Prosecutors say Warner, in a scheme to fix the voting for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, directed a family member to fly to Paris to "accept a briefcase containing bundles of U.S. currency in $10,000 stacks in a hotel room from a high-ranking South African bid committee official."
The 72-year-old Warner initially protested his innocence on Facebook, but later turned himself in to authorities. He was granted $2.5 million bail and was expected to be held overnight Wednesday. Warner has denied any wrongdoing.
Warner's arrest follows the announcement Wednesday of racketeering and other charges against top FIFA executives, several of whom were arrested in a Zurich hotel. Six of those arrested are fighting extradition to the United States, according to the Swiss justice ministry.
The indicted "were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest and to protect the integrity of the game," said US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who formally announced the charges.
"Instead, they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves," Lynch said.
AFC backs Blatter
Meanwhile, FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who is facing a reelection vote this Friday, has not been targeted in the investigation.
"Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game," Blatter said after the scandal broke.
UEFA, European soccer's governing body, has called for Friday's vote to be postponed, saying the FIFA congress and presidential election risked becoming "farce," the Asian Football Confederation, a key ally of Blatter, insisted Thursday that the FIFA congress and presidential election go ahead as initially planned.
The AFC "expresses its disappointment and sadness at Wednesday's events in Zurich whilst opposing any delay in the FIFA presidential elections," a statement from the AFC said.
"Furthermore, the AFC reiterates its decision taken at the AFC Congress in Sao Paulo in 2014, endorsed at subsequent congresses in Melbourne and Manama in 2015, to support FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter."
Despite not having UEFA's support, Blatter is expected to easily win re-election as he is supported by a wide majority of 209 national soccer federations that will cast ballots Friday.
bw/jil (AFP, AP, Reuters)