FIFA: The Repugnant Jack Warner – Justice At Last?

by | Nov 13, 2017

“Inside World Football” website editor Paul Nicholson recently wrote that repugnant former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner was “believed to be one of the kingpins at the centre of the corruption within Fifa and his own regional confederation.”

That “belief” is strong among Fifa corruption observers. The only problem with proving it in court is getting him to court, as Warner has fought a two-year Trinidad and Tobago High Court campaign against extradition to the United States, where he has been sought since the famous 20th May 2015 US Department of Justice indictments against Fifa officials.

However, he recently lost a key battle in that campaign. In November 2015, he initiated a claim for a judicial review of the Attorney-General’s Office decision to allow his extradition. But on 27th September, Judge Justice James Aboud released a 50-page ruling dismissing it. Nobel Prize for literature material, despite its often-impenetrable legalese.

New York Times assistant sports editor Andrew Das tweeted: “A bunch of ears perked up at Fifa” (he surely meant “pricked” up, but the message was clear). “Not just at Fifa,” some wag replied (me). While seasoned BBC Fifa-watcher Richard Conway asked: “Is the net closing?” Well, “not yet,” as Justice Aboud allowed Warner’s people 28 days to appeal which, naturally, they have.

Warner’s witness credibility needs to dwarf his human credibility for any extradition to have lasting significance. UCLA law professor Steven Banks tweeted: “Warner is probably the best situated to connect the dots. Not sure he’s the most credible witness, though.” Das suggested “they should appeal to his score-settling instincts.” And hopes rested with those instincts upon his release from a Port-of-Spain prison on TT$2.5m bail, on 28th May 2015, after surrendering to Trini’s Fraud Squad when hearing of his indictment. Sadly/predictably, they were in vain.

On 4th June 2015, Warner bought airtime on Trinidad’s TV6 channel to promise the nation that “The Gloves are Off” and that while his grubby paws were exposed to the elements, they held a “comprehensive series of documents” (which he called “an avalanche” elsewhere) concerning his Fifa and domestic political activities.

“I have kept quiet,” he declared, which was news. “I will do so no more.” He had “no intention” of letting enemies “deprive me of my freedom.” And he had placed “cheques and corroborated statements in different, respected hands. These deal with my knowledge and involvement in the link between Fifa, its funding and me…and my knowledge of certain transactions at Fifa, including but not limited to ex-president Mr. Sepp Blatter.”

“Retracting them is now an impossibility, there can be no turning back,” he melodramatised. But FINDING the documents, let alone retracting them, subsequently proved “an impossibility,” despite the pleadings of football people worldwide and, entertainingly, comedian John Oliver.

Oliver’s political satire show “Last Week Tonight”, on America’s Home Box Office cable TV network, bought airtime on Trinidad’s TV6 channel to promise the nation, one week after Warner, that his “Mittens of Disapproval are On.”

He “begged” Warner to “release everything because…why the hell not? “(You are) already in a lot of trouble. I’ve been looking through the indictment and…good luck with that.” And he believed Warner had “some hilarious examples of Fifa corruption,” matching his late partner-in-corruption Chuck Blazer renting a Trump Tower apartment (that orange **** HAD to be involved) for the use of his cats (“FOR THE USE OF HIS CATS!” exclaimed a literally table-thumping Oliver).

“You owe it to the world to tell us,” Oliver continued. “Because right now. Jack. Everybody hates you…something to do with you being an absolutely terrible human being. But, if you turn on Fifa, do not underestimate how much people might be willing to forgive.” And, if/when in prison, “wouldn’t you feel better knowing you took down some people with you?”

Warner was unmoved…but not without producing some magical YouTube clips. He responded on Warner TV (yes!), in a manner that Oliver’s show could not have written: “I don’t need advice from any comedian fool…to tell me what facts to release and what not to release. That is none of his business. I don’t take any instruction from an American” (Oliver is English).

This was after eight comedy-gold Warner TV minutes defending himself: “I have never changed the culture of Fifa,” he said. “Nothing I have done in Fifa has been inconsistent with the international culture of Fifa,” which was true…and rather the point. Then, holding what resembled a hard copy of a news-media website article, he declared:

“I see Fifa has frantically announced, in 2015, this year, a World Cup, beginning May 27th. If Fifa is so bad, why is it that the USA wants to keep the Fifa World Cup? Why is it that they began games on May 27th, two days before the Fifa (presidential) election? Why is it the US authorities who sought to embarrass Fifa in Zurich? Something has to be wrong.”

It was. “He’s right,” Oliver noted. “Fifa giving the US an extra World Cup is comically ridiculous. It’s the sort of thing you’d usually see in an ‘Onion’ article” (a spoof-news website). “Which is exactly what he was holding up there.” And he added: “It says something about how corrupt Fifa is that one of their ex-vice-presidents could look at that and think ‘yeah, that sounds like something they might do.” And it says something about how thick as pigsh*t Warner is.

Sadly/predictably, Warner offered an avalanche of two-tenths of five-eighths of FA. And the legal grind began. The day after Warner’s arrest, Trinidad’s then-attorney-general, Garvin Nicholas, revealed that his office had worked with US authorities on Warner for “about two years.” Warner was charged with what court papers called “serious offences (each with several counts)” and what the press labelled “an avalanche of new claims,” a reminder that he had been a naughty boy for YEARS.

Warner was, as per, wordily defiant: “Whatever is planned for me, negatively, shall not succeed,” he told Facebook. “I have been afforded no due process. I have not even been questioned. I am innocent of any charges.” He then shifted from defiance to pomposity: “I have walked away from the politics of world football to immerse myself in the improvement of lives in this country where I shall, God willing, die.” At this rate, he’ll fulfil that last ambition on the way to or from court.

That July, US authorities formally sought Warner’s extradition. His people demanded “a right to be heard” before the Americans were given an “Authority to Proceed.” Nicholas said no. His replacement, after Trinidad’s September general election, Faris Al-Rawi, said yes, but only on “certain conditions, which the claimant rejected” (see below). The US got their authority.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe filled with open stable doors, Fifa banned Warner from soccer, for “being a key player in schemes involving the offer, acceptance, and receipt of undisclosed and illegal payments, (and) other money-making schemes.” Blimey. Who knew?

In November, Warner’s attorneys sought “leave to apply for judicial review,” claiming pretty much everything until then was “unlawful, null and void and of no effect.” Two months later STILL, Al-Rawi allowed the application.

2016 was submerged under piles of appeals and enough affidavits to wallpaper Warner’s predictably large property portfolio, including America’s application to intervene in the judicial review process. That was rejected. That rejection was appealed. That appeal was rejected. Warner said it was “ironic but long overdue” that America had to pay HIM, after presiding judge Justice James Aboud awarded him legal costs. And, hey presto, it was 2017.

Yet, Warner’s life continued as normal…for him. In 2015, he settled two defamation lawsuits, for a combined $1m+. In March 2016, Trinidad’s First Citizens Bank filed a lawsuit seeking repayment of $1.2m in unpaid overdraft fees. In May, Central American football federation Concacaf, over which Warner presided for 21 years, sued him for $50m, in relation to the “Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence,” appropriately named after the late autocrat who ruled Fifa for 24 years, given the plentiful(WRD) corruption surrounding it.

In July, Warner settled another defamation lawsuit, for an undisclosed sum reportedly “close to” $400,000 (jeez, a few strategically-timed silences and would he have NEEDED to bribe anyone?). And in April 2017, Concacaf were back for a few dollars more, “to redress the harms” caused by his and Blazer’s “fraudulent, unfair and unlawful acts as former high-ranking (Concacaf) officials.”

Warner counter-sued Concacaf “and its de facto American President, Sunil Gulati, in his personal capacity,” for double the money for, wait for it, “persistent defamation of my character,” a remarkable feat of vocabulary if they managed it.

Delays continued in 2017. Having received full written submissions from all parties on 21st April, Aboud was due to rule on the judicial review application in July. However, the final, yes, two-month wait until 27th September seemed worth it when his 18,000-word ruling was released.

It noted that “the facts” of the case were “not in dispute.” But it detailed Warner’s various whinges down the years, about…pretty much everything bar the colour of the courtroom walls. And it included what even Aboud called “laborious definitions” connected to non-conformities between two pieces of legislation defining “extraditable offences” between Trinidad and the States.

Aboud noted, however, that what particularly “sounded the alarm bell” for Warner was that, once in America, he could be “detained, tried or punished” for “a differently denominated offence based on the same facts on which extradition was granted, provided such offence is extraditable.” One can only imagine how many “different denominations” Warner has “offended” in.

Warner also feared that the US wanted to stretch the legal definitions of extraditable offences before subjecting him to an unfair trial, as revenge for his role in their failed 2022 World Cup bid (Warner voted, against a bid from his own confederation, for Qatar because OF COURSE HE DID). And articles about President Trump’s administration having “a different view” to their predecessors on “actively seeking to bring CRIMINALS into the United States” (emphasis added) made that point.

But Aboud was decisively dismissive. Warner’s fears were reported in the media as “exaggerated and speculative.” (“No reason has been given to me, short of speculation,” Aboud complained at one point). His attorneys were over-reliant on “unbalanced” evidence which described “the US judicial system as if it were intrinsically brutish, conniving, and ungoverned by the rule of law.” And Aboud was “sufficiently persuaded that the US prosecutors and justice system do not act capriciously.”

Warner had also demanded to be heard (so far, so usual) in court before the above-mentioned “authority to proceed” was considered, in September 2015. Attorney-General Faris Al-Rawi agreed, if the procedural timeframe was extended. Warner claimed this would “extend the infringement of his liberty.” But, Aboud deliciously noted: “The claimant was on bail and the allegation that the extension would have compromised his liberty exists only on the esoteric plane of legal theory.”

However, Warner isn’t getting on any plane, esoteric, jet or otherwise, this year. He filed his expected appeal against the dismissal of his judicial review application. He further applied for the extradition case to be “stayed” (halted), pending the appeal. And on November 2nd, Trinidad’s acting Chief Magistrate Maria Busby-Earle-Caddle agreed to adjourn the case until 18th January.

This will doubtless let the repugnant Warner find more esoteric planes of legal theory with which to screw everyone around, in the continued absence of tangible defences against the indictments. With his football and political careers over, that is all he can do these days. But that also means he doesn’t need to leave Trinidad, or Tobago, to be a pain in the arse, especially to America. Or to maintain his reputation as a “kingpin.”

So, he’s surely loving the on-and-on (and on) going attention. Its what he does. As Justice Aboud said in his ruling, Warner has, court appearances aside, the “ability to move freely about the country.” And any hope that he finds all this as tiresome as everyone else finds it, and him, is probably in vain.