The Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) has three days to decide on a suitably tough legal suit against its former Special Advisor and “renegade agent” Jack Warner, the Minister of Works and a former FIFA Vice President, or face a charge for contempt of court.
Justice Devindra Rampersad gave the fresh deadline to the TTFF in the Port of Spain High Court today after a stop-start day of legal wrangling that included three breaks, multiple presentations by most of the four legal teams present, a false alarm and regular requests for a lengthy delay.
TTFF General Secretary Richard Groden was eventually left with a choice.
Groden must either satisfy the High Court that he is taking strong legal action against Warner to satisfy the court’s request for vital accounting statements related to the 2006 World Cup; or he could feasibly be jailed on Carnival Friday for contempt of court.
Justice Rampersad hinted that an independent suit by the TTFF might be the best course of action. That suit would run parallel to the World Cup bonus case filed by the 13 World Cup players and would be handled and expedited by the Judge.
Stern John, Brent Sancho, Cyd Gray, Aurtis Whitley, David Atiba Charles and Anthony Wolfe were present for the claimants while Groden and Treasurer Rudi Thomas represented the TTFF and its former President Oliver Camps was there as the second defendant.
One thing made abundantly clear is that Warner’s claim to have supplied the TTFF with all relevant documentation already—which was relayed to the local football body be letter last week—will not be taken seriously.
Justice Rampersad described Warner’s letter as strange and noted the TTFF’s former special advisor already promised, in an affidavit on 17 October 2011, that he was “prepared to provide to (the TTFF) the information or documentation relevant to the taking of the account between it and the claimants.”
“I have a situation where someone said one thing in an affidavit,” said Justice Rampersad, “and in a letter said something else.”
Warner’s attorney, Om Lalla, was asked repeatedly to explain his client’s apparent about-turn but declined on the grounds that he was not instructed properly, he might be prejudicing himself, any response would be speculation and a combination of all three reasons.
“I would prefer not to speculate,” said Lalla. “I am threading very carefully because of the sensitivity of it… I think I would be prejudicing myself.”
Lalla was not obligated to be at the High Court since his client, Warner, was supposed to have accounts before the court rather than his person. And Derek Ali, rather than Lalla, was the TTFF’s legal counsel since 8 February 2012.
So Lalla, who was there to help the court, was allowed to evade difficult questions; and they were virtually all too tough to handle.
Lalla really came to life outside the court during breaks when the defendants and their respective attorneys flocked around him and stood in silence while he lectured.
Young Alvin Ramroop could arguably do with the advice.
Camps’ last attorney, Anabelle Sooklal, failed to show at the last hearing on 12 January 2012; so the ex-TTFF president brought Ramroop who was allowed to appeared amicus—he has not yet agreed to accept the brief.
Ramroop told the court that he had not received any documents whatsoever from his client.
“I am not fully seasoned of the facts,” Ramroop told the Judge.
Justice Rampersad gave him two weeks to catch up.
The High Court was most interested, with almost single-minded focus, on Ali and Groden and their plan for the TTFF’s renegade agent, Warner.
Justice Rampersad warned that “very serious consequences” awaited Groden and Warner if they continued in this vein while he further accused the general secretary of “dereliction of duty.”
The Judge hinted too that he might accede to the players’ request and have Warner officially joined to the case. Whatever Justice Rampersad was minded to do, he kept his cards close to his chest and the spotlight on the TTFF.
He asked Groden if he was satisfied with Warner’s response to the court order for written accounts.
“Based on your request, I don’t think so,” said Groden.
“Okay, so what are you going to do now?” asked Justice Rampersad. “That is your agent.”
“Well, I will be guided by you,” said Groden.
“But you have to decide,” said Justice Rampersad, “your agent is not responding and not filing.
“What are you going to do?”
“I will be guided by counsel,” said Groden, after a slight pause and sideways glance to his lawyer.
“And what is counsel is saying?” Justice Rampersad asked Ali.
“Well, I haven’t had an opportunity to say anything,” said Ali.
Four and a half hours, three court room breaks and several group huddles later, the Judge still had still not broken past Ali’s forward defensive.
Ali wanted to become au courant with the case before he could decide on his client’s next course of action.
Justice Rampersad was in no mood for another long break and made mention of the perceived damage to the country’s reputation as a result of the case.
The present matter was decidedly simple in the Judge’s estimate and he made sure Ali knew it. An agent has refused to comply with a request by your client for information; so what would you do?
Ali asked for a month to ponder the dilemma. Justice Rampersad gave him three days.
“This will be an unforgettable Valentine’s Day, your Honour,” said Ali, in a rare attempt at humour. “(There is) no love.”
The consequence for his client was spelt out. If the TTFF does not take legal action against Warner, possibly in the form of a parallel case that would be expedited, then the TTFF will face contempt charges on 28 February 2012.
The Judge will also hear an application by the “Soca Warriors”, on Friday, to search and copy documents at the TTFF headquarters and for costs.
And as for the intended, third party, Warner?
Justice Rampersad did not explicitly say how he would deal with the Works Minister.
Wired868 and everyone else must wait until Friday.