Fallen FIFA executive Jack Warner on Tuesday said that US authorities would be unable to give him a fair trial, while an Argentine businessman indicted in the soccer body’s sprawling corruption scandal handed himself over to Italian police.
Warner, a former schoolteacher and former Trinidadian minister of national security at the heart of the criminal case engulfing soccer’s world body, is the subject of a US request to have him extradited from Trinidad.
The 72-year-old said the US is not the “appropriate jurisdiction” to handle the matter “fairly,” and claimed the US is trying to exact revenge, because it tried, but failed to lobby FIFA to host the 2022 World Cup.
“One must be extremely careful to question whether the United States can be fair in taking action against officials of an international body whom it feels has done it wrong,” Warner wrote in an editorial in the weekly Sunshine newspaper, which he owns.
Currently, US prosecutors accuse 14 people of taking part in a sweeping kickbacks scheme going back 20 years involving a total of US$150 million in bribes.
The revelations have thrown the soccer world into turmoil and led to the resignation of long-serving FIFA president Sepp Blatter last week, just four days after his re-election to a fifth consecutive term.
Warner called the US two-faced, since he and Blatter had once been welcomed to the White House by US President Barack Obama.
“Was the president of the United States seeking a strong lobby from a FIFA vice president or was he ‘bribing’ a FIFA official with a visit and a meal to the White House? I think not,” Warner said.
“In each case, the answer is no, but it just goes to show how selective this ‘bribe’ issue can be,” he added.
Among those indicted is Argentine sports marketing executive Alejandro Burzaco. He turned himself in to police in Italy after initially fleeing authorities.
Burzaco, 50, was held in Bolzano, near Italy’s northern border with Switzerland, after “turning up spontaneously” at a police station with his two lawyers, police said in a statement.
Burzaco’s whereabouts had been a mystery since seven FIFA executives were arrested in the Swiss city of Zurich on May 27, the eve of a FIFA congress. According to reports, Burzaco was in the hotel where the executives were cuffed and promptly disappeared in the knowledge he was likely to be on the indicted list.
It is believed he was not in his hotel room at the time, because he was having breakfast.
After he turned himself in, Burzaco was briefly detained in a cell and was then allowed to leave the police station, but placed under house arrest, Italian news agency AGI reported.
The Argentine, who also has Italian citizenship, had already rented a house near Bolzano in the expectation of being placed under house arrest, reports said.
Burzaco is wanted by US authorities in connection with his role as president of sports marketing company Torneos y Competencias.
The US suspects him of paying tens of millions of dollars in bribes to win and retain the media rights contracts for soccer tournaments in Latin America.
Torneos y Competencias held the TV rights for the Argentine league between 1992 and 2009, and in association with Aaron Davidson, president of Traffic Sports USA who was arrested in Zurich, and another company, Full Play, holds the rights for the Copa America tournament that begins in Chile today.
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