Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has vowed to stand by suspended FIFA Vice-President Austin “Jack” Warner by the Ethics Committee of the world’s governing football body.
Persad-Bissessar told a media conference, “I will not prejudge the allegations against Minister Warner, and until there is evidence to the contrary, I stand by him.”
FIFA’s ethics committee after a meeting in Zurich, Switzerland issued a provisional suspension banning Warner, the FIFA vice-president and CONCACAF president, from conducting any football business, pending the outcome of a full investigation into bribery allegations leveled against him.
Persad-Bissessar said, “At this time there is no reason for me to arrive at any conclusion regarding the allegations made against Warner.”
She admitted that she too was “concerned by the allegations” against her senior cabinet minister.
Warner, who is the works and transport minister has acted as prime minister on two occasions since the People’s Partnership government came into office in May last year.
The prime minister in praising Warner described him as “a son of our soil” who served this T&T faithfully at that very football organization and who was instrumental in leading Trinidad and Tobago to its very first World Cup qualification just a few years ago.
“He must be allowed every opportunity to present his case against the allegations made about him,” she said.
The decision by FIFA to initiate a provisional suspension against Warner, pending an investigation, Persad-Bissessar said “is not a determination of guilt, but part of a process that we trust will be fair and unprejudiced.”
Warner along with FIFA executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam were suspended pending an investigation into allegations that they both offered US$40,000 bribes to delegates at a Caribbean Football Union meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad held at the Hyatt Hotel, Port of Spain, on May 10-11 this year.
The payments were allegedly made to secure votes for bin Hammam, a Qatari who heads Asia’s football confederation, in his campaign to unseat President Sepp Blatter.
Warner, a 28 year-old veteran at FIFA’s high table, has maintained his innocence in the face of the committee ruling that there was a case to be answered.