Ex-FIFA official Warner wins election in Trinidad

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) — Former international soccer official Jack Warner has made a political comeback in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad & Tobago a few months after a regional sports group’s ethics panel accused him of enriching himself through fraud.

Preliminary results from a by-election show that Warner easily won back a seat in Parliament just over three months after he was forced to resign from the Trinidadian government because of corruption allegations stemming from his tenure as a longtime soccer power broker. At the time, he also served as the country’s national security minister.

Warner thanked a crowd of cheering supporters late Monday after the results showed he received more than twice as many votes as ruling party candidate Khadijah Ameen to reclaim the seat of Chaguanas West. The district is a fast-growing community in central Trinidad where Warner was first elected as parliamentarian in the 1990s.

Figures from the elections office shows Warner with 12,631 votes. Ameen of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s United National Congress won 5,126 votes, according to the preliminary tally.

“Thank you for this resounding victory,” Warner told celebrating supporters at the headquarters of the Independent Liberal Party that he founded earlier this year to help keep his political career afloat.

Warner resigned as national security minister and parliamentarian for Chaguanas West on April 21 after an ethics panel from the Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Football accused him of fraudulently managing the body running soccer in the region, an allegation he has denied. Warner is also a former FIFA vice president who was implicated in a bribery scandal while opposing group president Sepp Blatter’s re-election two years ago.

In April, Warner claimed FIFA gifted him $6 million toward an athletics training center in Trinidad to gain Caribbean support for Blatter’s first election as president of the soccer federation in 1998. He claimed it was part of a deal in May 1998 with then-FIFA President Joao Havelange.

FIFA has declined to comment in detail “on any allegations made by Jack Warner.”

Warner’s political revival in Trinidad was met with a subdued response by Persad-Bissessar. The country’s leader was once a staunch political ally of Warner’s but she blasted him during the by-election campaign and insisted that he had to answer questions about the corruption allegations in the soccer group’s report.

“This is just one battle in many, many more to come,” Persad-Bissessar said after the preliminary tally was announced.

It was not clear whether Persad-Bissessar’s government would try to bring Warner’s party into the ruling coalition.

“We offered before the election and were spurned,” Warner told a local television station on Tuesday. “It will not be up to me to offer again but rather the interim executive of the party and we will meet on Thursday or Friday to discuss that possibility.”

On Tuesday, opposition leader Keith Rowley painted the by-election result as a “damaging blow” for Persad-Bissessar’s government and called for fresh elections.

Persad-Bissessar’s coalition government still controls 27 of the 41 parliamentary seats in Trinidad & Tobago, a leading supplier of natural gas just off Venezuela’s coast.

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