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Australia defends funding grant to Trinidad

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BRISBANE, Australia (AP) - Australia's soccer federation has defended a decision to fund a stadium upgrade in Trinidad, highlighted in a damaging ethics report into former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, saying it was fulfilling its mandatory requirements in the World Cup bidding process.

A report by the Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Football ethics and integrity committee last week accused Warner and former secretary general Chuck Blazer of ``enriching themselves through fraud'' in running the sport's regional governing body.

In one instance, the report questioned what happened to $462,200 in Australian funding for the Havelange Center in Warner's home country of Trinidad and Tobago, built on land owned by Warner.

Football Federation Australia provided the money to upgrade a stadium at the center in September 2010, during the time it was campaigning for votes in its failed bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

The ethics report said the Australian funds ``were not accounted for in the CONCACAF general ledger or reported as income in its financial statements for 2010'' but instead was deposited into a ``comingled'' account that included Warner's personal money.

``This funding related to the mandatory FIFA World Cup bidding criteria,'' Kyle Patterson FFA head of corporate affairs said Tuesday in a statement sent to The Associated Press. ``FFA was required to demonstrate its credentials in the area of international development.''

Patterson said the funding of preliminary design and feasibility works for a CONCACAF Centre of Excellence in Trinidad was ``one of a range of international development projects FFA undertook.''

``All were reported to the Australian government. The funds were allocated from FFA's international football development budget at the time and were not part of government funds provided to the World Cup bid,'' he said.

Patterson declined to comment further.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported Australia's connection to the ethics report Tuesday under the headline: FIFA official `stole' Australian cash.

Warner quit as national security minister of Trinidad and Tobago late Sunday, two days after the report was released in Panama City. He quit as CONCACAF president and a member of FIFA's executive committee in 2011.

The Havelange Center was built in Trinidad and Tobago on land allegedly owned by Warner's companies, and received almost $26 million in funding, mostly from football's world governing body, over the following decade.

The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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