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Trinidad's national security minister, ex-FIFA official Warner quits -official

Trinidad and Tobago's National Security Minister Jack Warner leaves with bodyguards after an emergency cabinet meeting at the private reside
Trinidad and Tobago's National Security Minister Jack Warner leaves with bodyguards after an emergency cabinet meeting at the private reside

By Linda Hutchinson-Jafar

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (Reuters) - Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner resigned as Trinidad and Tobago's national security minister on Sunday, two days after an investigation accused him of "fraudulent" management of the CONCACAF soccer confederation, the prime minister's office said.

Warner, who stepped down as CONCACAF president in 2011 after a "cash-for-votes" scandal, was accused on Friday at a congress of soccer officials in Panama of tricking the body that represents soccer in North America, Central America and the Caribbean out of ownership of the $26 million Centre of Excellence in Port of Spain.

"I have today accepted the offer of resignation of the Minister of National Security, Mr. Jack Warner, from the Cabinet of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago," Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said in a statement.

Pressure on Warner to resign built up over the weekend after one of the major partners in Trinidad's four-member party coalition government called for his firing.

The prime minister, who returned to Trinidad on Saturday night from visits to the United States and Canada, made the announcement after summoning her Cabinet to a meeting at her private residence.

Warner, 70, who is also facing an FBI probe over a separate issue, left the meeting without speaking to reporters.

CONCACAF's congress in Panama was presented on Friday with a detailed report into allegations of financial mismanagement by Warner and ex-general secretary Chuck Blazer, based on documents and interviews with 38 people.

The report from CONCACAF's Integrity Committee found that Warner did not disclose to CONCACAF or world body FIFA that a $26 million Centre of Excellence, financed by the football bodies, was built on land owned by his companies.

"Approximately $26 million of CONCACAF funds went into the Centre of Excellence and that is no longer an asset of CONCACAF," said David Simmons, the former chief justice of Barbados who headed the committee's probe.

Warner rejected the report's findings in a statement saying it was "of no concern to me and, as far as I am aware, it is baseless and malicious."

Warner walked away from soccer in 2011 and avoided facing a FIFA Ethics Commission inquiry relating to bribery allegations surrounding the body's presidential election. He was accused of helping Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar to bribe Caribbean soccer officials so they would back a bid by Bin Hamman to become FIFA's president.

Bin Hammam and Warner both have repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

Since at least the summer of 2011, the FBI has been examining more than $500,000 in payments made by the Caribbean Football Union over the past 20 years to an offshore company headed by Blazer, a former top U.S. soccer official, according to law enforcement sources.

The precise reasons for many of those payments is unclear. In 2011, Blazer said the payments were for loans made to Warner in 2004.

Warner told the media in Trinidad that the payments were legitimate.

(Writing and additional reporting by Simon Evans.; Editing by David Adams and Stacey Joyce)