Indicted ex-FIFA official Jack Warner cites 'Onion' article to defend himself
(CNN) An embattled former FIFA official has scored a spectacular public relations own-goal by citing an article by satirical news outlet The Onion in an attempt to counter criminal charges against him.
Jack Warner, FIFA's former vice-president and a member of parliament in Trinidad and Tobago, was among those arrested last week in a U.S.-led investigation into corruption in world football. He was released on bail Thursday and is facing an extradition request from the U.S. government.
In a video statement posted Sunday to his own warnertv.net website and social media accounts, Warner brandished a copy of a bogus news report by the satirical news website as he launched a broadside against the ongoing U.S. Justice Department investigation into alleged bribe-taking and racketeering at football's governing body.
The faux news report, titled \"FIFA Frantically Announces 2015 Summer World Cup in the United States,\" jokingly suggested the sporting body had created an alternative tournament to appease U.S. officials.
Warner accused the U.S. of \"double standards\" for agreeing to host the fictional tournament in cooperation with an organization it had accused of corruption.
\"If FIFA is so bad, why is it the U.S.A. wants to keep the FIFA World Cup?\" he asks, pointing to a print-out of the report.
He went on to elaborate his theory: \"Why is it the U.S. authorities sought to embarrass FIFA in Zurich? Something has to be wrong. I made the point to you over and over that all this... has stemmed from the failed U.S. bid to host the World Cup.\"
After Warner's blunder was ridiculed online, the video was removed from his social media accounts, only to be later replaced with an edited version, shorn of the reference to the Onion article. But a version of the original was reposted by a YouTube user.
Warner, head of Trinidad and Tobago's Independent Liberal Party, declared his innocence in the wake of last week's indictments and said in a statement that he had not been interviewed and \"the actions of FIFA no longer concern me.\"
In May 2011, Warner and fellow FIFA member Mohammed bin Hammam of Qatar were suspended by FIFA's Ethics Committee, pending the outcome of an investigation of corruption allegations against them.
Warner resigned from his position the following month, and FIFA announced that \"all Ethics Committee procedures against him have been closed and the presumption of innocence is maintained.\"
On Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department unsealed information on people who had pleaded guilty to various charges relating to FIFA in recent years.
They included Warner's sons Daryll, a former FIFA development officer who pleaded guilty in 2013 to two counts related to wire fraud and structuring of financial transactions, and Daryan, who has forfeited $1.1 million as part of his plea and will forfeit an undisclosed sum when he is sentenced for wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and the structuring of financial transactions.