Trinidad’s national security minister quits

Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner has resigned as Trinidad and Tobago’s national security minister two days after a regional football group’s ethics panel accused him and another official of fraud.

In a brief statement on Sunday night, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said that Warner offered to resign from her Cabinet and that she accepted his decision.

“I wish to thank Mr. Warner for his service to the government and people of Trinidad Tobago,” Persad-Bissessar said, adding that she had advised Trinidad’s governor-general to appoint another legislator to lead the security ministry.

Warner’s resignation came shortly after an ethics panel of the Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Football, known as CONCACAF, released a report charging that Warner and a former secretary-general of the group enriched themselves through fraud during their terms with the organisation.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent Dominic Kane said that for more than 20 years Jack Warner had been surrounded by bribery allegations but this time it has cost him his main job. He added that Warner played a pivotal role in the sports world. 

“In the contest for who would stage football’s biggest competition, he decided where his confederation’s votes went, making him a kingmaker,” Kane said.

Warner has repeatedly dismissed the various allegations against him and denies any wrongdoing. He could not immediately be reached for comment. He remains a member of Parliament.

CONCACAF allegations

Warner resigned as CONCACAF president in June 2011 after a former secretary-general of the regional body accused him of attempting to bribe Caribbean delegates $40,000 each to vote for Bin Hammam, the then-Asian confederation head Mohamed bin Hammam in the election for president of FIFA. Warner also gave up his powerful position on FIFA’s executive committee.

Chuck Blazer, the former CONCACAF secretary-general who made the accusations, was the other official accused by the organisation’s ethics and integrity committee of corruption in a 113-page report presented by the group’s congress in Panama City.

Committee member David Anthony Cathcart Simmons has accused Warner of misappropriating at least $15 million by compensating himself with CONCACAF funds without authorisation after his last contract expired in July 1998.

Warner oversaw North American and Caribbean football for almost three decades. When he resigned in June 2011, he avoided investigation into the bribery scandal tied to the FIFA presidential election.

Among the other complaints made against him during his leadership positions in the sport, he has been accused of mismanaging nearly $1 million in FIFA funds slated for a reconstruction project in Haiti.

In recent days, Trinidad opposition leader Keith Rowley had demanded that Warner resign. But others said there was likely behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to Warner’s decision to step down.

“He was persuaded it was best to go,” said Bishnu Ragoonath, a lecturer at Trinidad’s University of the West Indies.

“There is going to be negative fallout for the government as the opposition and civil society groups will say the prime minister waited too long to act.”

Many people were surprised when Warner was appointed security minister. Shortly afterward, he was sharply criticised for dispatching troops and riot police to remove a protest camp built by environmentalists.

He also made headlines when he announced he hoped to stop the release of crime reports and statistics, arguing that publicising such information encouraged people to commit more crime.