Jack Warner: (Still) At Large

by | Sep 1, 2020

It was familiar news. On 18th March 2020, the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) published a “superseding” indictment against various ‘personalities’ connected with world football’s governing body, Fifa. And there, at the bottom of the front-page list of 17 familiar indictees, in terms of credibility, likeability and…well…just ‘ability,’ was, to give him his full title, the repugnant Jack Warner.

He was actually last on the list because of alphabetical order, Warner coming after ‘w*nkers.’ It was a familiar charge sheet, too, bribes totalling US$5m, for facilitating dodgy “contracts for the rights to the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) 2006 World Cup qualifying matches, while he was CFU president” and “purported to be a special adviser” to Trinidad & Tobago’s FA (TTFA). And for facilitating South Africa and Russia’s successful bids for, respectively, 2010 and 2018 World Cup hosting rights.

Warner’s reaction was familiar, too. Slightly off-centre English bluster and arrogant, contempt, while body-serving direct denials. Asked by Trinidad’s Newsday newspaper about the indictment, he replied: “You really want me to answer that stupidness? And when pressed to deny the charges, he told Newsday that if “all yuh want to be messengers for the US, go ahead. I have no problem with that.”

The indictment is one of the latest chapters in Warner’s long legal story. The US has sought his extradition from Trinidad since May 2015, with Warner inevitably among the Fifa bods named in the DoJ indictment which led to the infamous dawn raids on a Zurich hotel before Fifa’s annual congress. Warner is wanted on a dozen financial skullduggery-based charges and has been out on TT$2.5m bail since spending 27th May 2015 in a prison in Trinidad’s capital, Port of Spain. And his legal eagles have since successfully maintained his freedom.

In November 2017, I asked if he was to face “Justice at last.” Frustratingly, the answer then and now was/is “not yet.” And thanks to Trinidad’s colonial past, his case currently sits with the United Kingdom’s Privy Council, his last legal port-of-call. In 2017, we also noted a number of other Warner cases. And now there are another number of other cases involving a man single-handedly keeping much of Trinidad’s justice system on their toes.

Though Warner has successfully avoided extradition, where most others have failed, this has had far less to do with his innocence than claiming kinks in extradition law. Warner has argued that Trinidad’s Extradition (Commonwealth and Foreign Territories) Act, is at odds with its extradition treaty with the US, as “in passing the Act,” Trinidad’s parliament “afforded citizens certain protections which are ignored by the international treaty.”

In June 2017, Warner’s application for a judicial review of his extradition proceedings was heard. Warner’s legal team identified five “non-conformities” between the two legislations. But he was especially exercised by the possibility that, once in America, he could be charged with other offences which, in themselves, were not extraditable. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about the possibility that the old twister definitely committed such offences.

Warner also had procedural complaints about the Trinidad Attorney-General’s office’s obtaining of the “Authority to Proceed” (ATP) with the extradition process, back in May 2015. Warner’s attorneys complained at not having the right to comment before the ATP was granted. But they did and refused for reasons which even presiding Judge Justice James Aboud found “difficult to understand.”

As we noted then, Aboud “was decisively dismissive” of Warner’s case, which “described ‘the US judicial system as if it were intrinsically brutish, conniving, and ungoverned by the rule of law.” Aboud was “sufficiently persuaded” that it didn’t “act capriciously.” Nor did he “consider” that it would “go rogue and act outside of its well-developed doctrines of the rule of law.” And nothing has since happened to US justice, under President Trump, to change that view…er…anyway.

Alas, that September, Warner won the right to appeal Aboud’s decisiveness. And Trinidad’s acting Chief Magistrate Maria Busby-Earle-Caddle adjourned the case until 18th January 2018. This was delayed a month because of course it was (partly by arguments over Warner’s legal costs). So, on 20th February, Warner successfully played one legal proceeding off against the other, when Justice of Appeal Mark Mohammed ordered a November appeal date, because of course he did, and stayed (halted) the extradition proceedings pending said appeal.

This let Warner face other little local (legal) difficulties. On 23rd May, a case brought by North and Central America’s football confederation, Concacaf, was heard in Trinidad’s High Court, a well-documented dispute over the ownership of the Dr Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence, built for Concacaf and opened in YR but owned by a network of Warner companies (including one called the Dr Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence…there was a clue in there somewhere) for his personal financial benefit.

Such dodgy ownership was arguably entirely appropriate for a centre named after the corrupt-as-ninepence Brazilian autocrat who presided over Fifa for his own benefit from 1974 to 1998. But Concacaf were nonetheless after $37.8m in “compensation for the misappropriation of funds with respect to the ownership and use of the Centre.”

Also in May, Trinidad High Court Judge, and perfect term for Warner’s legal filibustering, Frank Seepersad, ordered him to pay $1.5m to tech firm Real Time Systems. RTS’s owner, Krishna Lalla, claimed that he loaned $1.5m to Warner in 2007 and expected repayment from what the Trinidad Guardian reported without comment as “US$10m that (Warner) expected to receive from his former employer” in 2008. The “former employer” was Fifa, though this US$10m and the US$10m he allegedly received in 2008 for voting for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup were surely unrelated.

Warner said the money was donated to the United National Congress (UNC) political party he then chaired, to help finance 2007’s general election campaign. But Seepersad ruled that “on a balance of probabilities, this court is of the view that Mr Warner may have wanted to portray an image to the UNC that he was its main financier, but to do so he sourced finance from Mr Lalla on the basis and expectation that (it) would be repaid upon his receipt of an a US$10m Fifa payment, due in February 2008.” Warner ask for leave to appeal, as per. Which, as per, was granted.

Also, also in May, Warner was ordered to pay $650,000 in damages to community activist and charity worker Faaiq Mohammed, tripling an award granted in 2014. In November 2013, in a move which would smash any functional irony-meter, Warner told a press conference his then political colleague Mohammed took TT$2.5m to vote for another party in a key, high-profile administrative election. And he vowed to “finish” Mohammed’s political career. He did so, viciously, even for him and, ultimately, defamatorily, conceivably bitter that he wasn’t offered the bribe himself.

As the Trinidad Guardian also noted, there were “several (lawsuits) involving Warner currently before the courts,” including “other litigation” from Lalla “over similar loans which are still pending.” And from Concacaf, relating to his 20 years as their president (1990-2010).

Warner’s appeal against Aboud’s September 2017 decision to dismiss his judicial review application finally got the legal elbow, from three Trinidad Court of Appeal judges, in June 2019. Their 40-page judgment upheld Aboud’s decision on Warner’s case. But even this “final” word was subjected to a 21-day staying, pending Warner’s application to appeal to the privy…council.

This allowed Warner time for more little local, and big international, legal difficulties. Two weeks later, Brooklyn District Judge William Kuntz decided to body-swerve nominative determinism and “entered judgment” against Warner and his partner in countless financial crimes, the Dickensian-named former Concacaf general secretary Chuck Blazer, in a civil lawsuit brought by the confederation in April 2017.

The suit said there could be “no doubt” that Warner and Blazer, who died in June 2017, “victimized Concacaf, stealing and defrauding it out of tens of millions of dollars in brazen acts of corruption for their own personal benefit at the expense of the entire Concacaf region.” This included a number if he “kickbacks” and other financial fiddles covered in the 2015 DoJ indictment.

Concacaf were awarded an oddly-reported “upwards of $20m,” in what some media superfluously added, was “Warner’s absence,” Brooklyn being quite famously in the US. Warner was also unrepresented in court, which seemed expensively unwise when, on 10th July, Kuntz awarded Concacaf $79m. Concacaf had reportedly claimed $20m as a minimum and wanted “three times that amount” plus “recovery costs and legal fees.” Kuntz, faced with no in-court opposition to these claims and to his own judgement on the costs and fees, agreed.

But whether Concacaf will see a cent remains unclear, as Warner isn’t due any more Fifa payments. Warner was after another payment, but ‘only’ $2.3m from the TTFA. In a near role-reversal of his RTS case, Warner claimed that he loaned the TTFA the $2.3m and that the TTFA’s annual accounts from 2007 to 2012 acknowledged this. Warner’s court filings, seen by the Trini Guardian, included two letters from then TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee, “acknowledging the debt” and giving assurances that “it would be cleared” when TTFA finances “improved.”

The debt was written off in 2015, with the association’s annual accounts stating that it was “statute-barred” and that it had “no obligation to pay.” But Warner claimed that the 2015 accounts “were published after the date of both letters” from Kee, who had twice “acknowledged the debt” to him. “At no time,” Warner stressed, did the TTFA tell him “that they were no longer under an obligation to repay” the money.

“Warner is no stranger to the courts,” the Trinidad Guardian understated titanically, as the Concacaf claim over the Havelange Centre of Corruption re-emerged, with two Warner companies and his wife Maureen applying to have action against them struck off because it was “generalised and lacking in particulars and direction,” which Maureen might have been used to, having listened to her husband for so long.

Warner may even have sued Kelloggs during this period, for a year’s supply of Bran Flakes (insert your own ‘full of s**t’ jokes here). And then doubtless appealed, if necessary. Especially as Trinidad’s judges seem unable to say “no,” to such requests.

Last September, Warner got “preliminary permission to pursue” privy councilling over his judicial review application appeal denial. Trinidad’s Attorney-General’s office did not oppose this but, uber-optimistically, asked that matters be “handled expeditiously.” Warner’s people agreed but claimed he was at the mercy of Privy Council timetabling. They hoped so, anyway, as delay is Warner’s strategy.

The strategy worked again. It wasn’t until 20th January 2020 that the appeal court granted Warner ”final leave” to privy-council. And he had an Appeal Court win double. Three days earlier, he won more “final leave,” to appeal the increased Faaiq Mohammed damages. And this became a hat-trick on 18th February, when the above-mentioned $1.5m from RTS was ruled a donation, not a loan.

Judge Seepersad shipped criticism for letting personal distaste for dodgy election-campaign finance cloud his legal judgment. And Warner responded with typical self-unawareness: “Too many judges believe they should brag to the media about their judgments. This case should be used to put the brakes on judges who are so inclined.”

April’s DoJ indictment changed his luck. It claimed that “In or about and between (!) November 2010 and April 2011,” he “was promised and received $5m.” which was paid into a CFU account “he controlled,” at Trinidad’s Republic Bank. “Wire transfers were sent from 10 different shell companies…part of a broader network…used to move money among offshore accounts,” several of which facilitated “wire transfers to or from” US-based companies “that performed work on behalf of the 2018 Russia World Cup bid.” The indictment didn’t stint on its language either, calling one set of Warner deals the “TTFF Sham Contracts.”

On 13th June, Switzerland’s Attorney-General’s office (OAG) announced that they considered disgraced former Fifa president Sepp Blatter an “accused person” over a 2010 Fifa loan of $1m, interest-free, to the TTFA. In April, the OAG closed an investigation into a 2004 broadcast rights deal Blatter signed with the Warner-controlled CFU. But an “investigation document,” dated 13th May, revealed new material, which reportedly “came to light as part of the ongoing case against Warner.”

Then, in July, the former national security minister (oh yes he was) announced his political comeback, after his previous eight-year parliamentary tenure ended in 2015 general election defeat. At last month’s election, e stood for the Independent Liberal Party he founded. But he destroyed a thousand “Jack is Back” headlines by coming a distant second in his constituency, as his party won no seats.

In football politics, last November, Warner publicly backed the “United TTFA” group which won TTFA elections. However, new association chief William Wallace told Fifa Secretary-General Fatma Samoura “that there has not been, is not, and never will be a connection with (Warner)” The new board was replaced by a Fifa Normalisation Committee in March. But that’s another story.

So, rightly so, as he is innocent until proven guilty, the repugnant Jack Warner remains at large, under island-wide ‘house’ arrest, yet somehow covering gargantuan legal costs at will. But experienced Trinidad Appeal Court judge Peter Jamadar, who co-presided over the May 2019 Faaiq Mohammed appeal, offered the most powerful possible description of this repugnance.

Warner said that Mohammed “was offered $2.5m. I have the documents. I have the deed and so on. I told him ‘boy, you are a young man, don’t spoil your career. If a Muslim young man sells his soul for money…under Muslim this kind of thing is wrong, son.’ His political career is finished. … We shall deal with him in the fullness of time.”

And Jamadar wrote that he achieved this “by sustained, vicious, untrue and unjustifiable assaults on Mohammed’s character and identity. The effects on Mohammed’s reputation were immediate, destructive and long-lasting. This appeal concerns Warner’s conscious, intentional, wilful and relentless defamation of Mohammed, with absolutely no evidence to show any truthfulness in or justification for the statements made and repeated and where no offer to apologise has ever been made. (In court), he produced not an iota of evidence to support or justify his allegations.”

Jamadar covered all Warner’s Trumpian arrogance, ignorance, dishonesty and disdain for due process. And true justice would lead the Privy Council and the Department of Justice to bring Warner TO justice.