For much of the past two years, one of Trinidad’s leading political and national figures has been the center of attention over his dealings with FIFA, the world governing body of soccer.
Austin Jack Warner, 69, wa,s until Sunday, the most powerful political figure in the oil- and gas-rich twin island republic with Tobago after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, but all this changed dramatically overnight when he was forced to tender his resignation to the head of government in the wake of an international report linking him to the theft of millions of dollars related to FIFA and Caribbean football activities.
For two decades, no one could have been elected president or general secretary of FIFA unless Warner threw the 30-plus votes from the North American and Caribbean region behind that candidate. He was simply that powerful–he could ensure that the region voted and acted as a unified bloc in all things football.
But it was the same umbrella group, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, that forced him to quit the cabinet and party chairmanship at the start of this week. Its recently held general meeting had examined and released a damning report linking him to massive corruption and alleged underhanded dealings in soccer governance over the years, including the disputed ownership of a Caribbean soccer training facility that was funded by FIFA, but whose title is in Warner’s name and not that of the world body.
Unable to cope any longer with the fallout from daily local and international media reports about the alleged widespread corruption involving the second most powerful person in the cabinet and the leading figure in the governing party, Persad-Bissessar called out Warner, describing him as a distraction that could have done harm against the government and party had he remained a government figure.
Warner had become such a divisive figure that several Cabinet ministers had publicly called for his departure, arguing that the Cabinet was being damaged by his continued presence. His two sons, who are currently in Florida, are already known to be under the glare of the FBI about their and their father’s dealings with the international movement and alleged concealment of large sums of money.