By GRAHAM DUNBAR, Associated Press
GENEVA (AP) — Former soccer official Jack Warner claims FIFA gifted him $6 million toward a training center in Trinidad to support Sepp Blatter's first election as president in 1998.
Warner says a deal in May 1998 with then-FIFA President Joao Havelange ensured backing from the CONCACAF region for Blatter in what turned out to be a tight contest against Lennart Johansson.
"Blatter would never have seen the light of day as president of FIFA" without 30 CONCACAF votes, Warner said in a speech distributed to international media Friday.
It's the latest attack on FIFA since Warner promised a "tsunami" of revelations after the then-FIFA vice president was implicated in a bribery scandal while opposing Blatter's latest election two years ago.
Warner's claim details his ownership of the Trinidad center of excellence, now valued at $22.5 million. Last week, an integrity panel accused him of fraudulently managing the body running soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Warner spoke to his Trinidad constituents late on Thursday, days after resigning from the island's government amid the latest soccer scandal to implicate the longtime FIFA power broker.
He also published letters apparently showing Havelange agreed to convert FIFA's loan of $6 million into a donation to him and the Caribbean Football Union.
"I told Havelange that, through him, Blatter will get CONCACAF's total support," Warner said. "Blatter had been at this time the most hated FIFA official by both the European and African confederations.
"I was Blatter's idol then and he was mine."
Warner's version of saving the election for Blatter doesn't entirely match a widely reported account, which involves African delegates switching sides just ahead of the vote in Paris on June 8, 1998.
Johansson, then UEFA president, was expected to be a strong candidate in the election to replace Havelange based mainly on widespread support across Europe and Africa, and some voters in Asia.
The Swedish official declined to contest a second ballot required by FIFA election rules after Blatter had a 111-80 victory in the first.
British author David Yallop wrote in a book published in 1999 that up to 20 Africans were paid by Middle East interests to abandon their promised support for Johansson, which probably would have given him 100 votes and momentum to beat Blatter in the second ballot.
FIFA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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