Ex-FIFA Vice President and Minister of Works and Infrastructure Jack Warner has allegedly threatened legal action against Wired868.com owner and investigative journalist, Lasana Liburd, and, by extension, social networking and microblogging service, Twitter, for “completely unacceptable defamation and libel”, according to Trinidad and Tobago television station, CTV.
Warner claimed to be provoked by a tweet from Wired868 that linked him to a Haitian financial aid controversy and said that he will retain English barrister William McCormick QC for the proceedings.
The Chaguanas West MP threatened to involve persons who re-tweet posts from Wired868 as well and did not rule out a suit against the publisher, Twitter. It is uncertain whether Warner asked Twitter to remove the tweets he found to be defamatory.
“I shall take advice on which other persons shall be joined to the suit and categorically state that not only did I never misappropriate aid money destined for Haiti,” Warner told ctntworld.com, “but (I) have personally made additional funds available to the 30+ victims and their families who were buried under the collapsed Haitian Football Association building.”
Up to the time of writing, Warner had not sued and the tweets remained up. The former Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) special advisor threatened to sue Liburd on several occasions but never followed up.
On Sunday, an exclusive UK Sunday Times report claimed that the Korea Football Federation and FIFA confirmed that they sent $4.76 million (US$750,000) in emergency relief aid to Warner to be further disbursed to Haiti.
Haitian football President Yves Jean-Bart subsequently claimed that only $381,000 (US$60,000) made it to the impoverished nation, which leaves close to $4.4 million (US$690,000) unaccounted for.
“Warner always told me your money is there, is available, any time,” Jean-Bart told The Times, “but I didn’t get it.”
FIFA confirmed that it is unable to locate the funds since it was deposited into a TTFF account and responded by suspending all funding for the local football body.
“We can confirm that FIFA wired immediately after the devastating earthquake USD 250,000 as an emergency aid for Haiti to the account of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF),” the FIFA Media Office told Wired868. “This was on request of the then CONCACAF President Jack Warner and subsequently transferred to the TTFF account, in order to immediately provide support to Haiti.
“FIFA can also confirm that it had been informed by the Haiti Football Association (FHF) in autumn 2011 that it had only received USD 60,000 of this emergency aid…
“As FIFA has not received any satisfactory response (from the TTFF), FIFA has stopped with immediate effect any payments to the TTFF until it will receive proper accounts of these funds allocated as an immediate relief support to the FHF.”
The TTFF, in a press release earlier today, alleged that Warner was solely responsible for the missing money and said it was only culpable for giving inordinate authority to its former special advisor.
“These monies did not go into the account used by the TTFF administration for its day to day operations,” stated the TTFF release, “but instead to the TTFF’s LOC Account as was requested by Mr. Jack Warner, the former vice president of FIFA and special advisor to the TTFF.
“The current executive is unaware of how these funds were disbursed or utilised and is awaiting the promised audited accounts from Mr. Warner… We never questioned (Warner’s) authority or actions and are now in a position of despair as we are starved of funds by FIFA until full disclosure, which we are unable to provide without Mr. Warner’s input.
“Sadly Mr Warner seems disinclined to comply with our repeated requests.”
Warner has not yet commented directly on the TTFF release.
He did send two emails to CTV, which he felt supported his intended suit.
The first email was sent by Yves-Bart on 26 February 2010 and requested US$379,500 to aid in Haiti’s football programs. The second email was sent on 24 April 2010 and thanked Warner for his enormous support.
Neither email appeared to confirm that Haiti received US$750,000 nor did they contradict Yves-Bart statement, given to The Times, that he repeatedly requested money from Warner without success.
It is unclear whether Warner plans to seek legal recourse against Wired868.com or if the intention is to intimidate an investigate reporter and curb the ability of the social media site, Twitter, to spread unflattering stories globally.
“The message was re-tweeted by numbers of equally deranged and malicious persons who never checked Liburd’s claim for its veracity,” said Warner, “nor did they research independently whether there was any truth whatsoever in the nasty allegation first made by one (Sunday Times reporter) James Corbett…
“I am appalled that persons whom I have known to be quality journalists in the past, are now jumping on the ‘destroy Warner’ bandwagon and thoughtlessly, if not senselessly, take any lie for granted that they come across these days and which further maligns and defames me.”
Wired 868 contacted Warner on the Haitian emergency relief fund before publishing and, tonight, again offered the Works Minister the opportunity to respond to the allegation via email.
Warner is expected to be the main topic at the Port of Spain High Court tomorrow morning when the TTFF responds to Justice Devindra Rampersad’s ultimatum to reign in its “renegade agent”, Warner, over missing accounting statements that are vital to the 2006 World Cup bonus dispute case involving 13 World Cup players.