Thirteen aggrieved 2006 World Cup football players are set to join a lengthy list of bodies on the trail of National Security Minister and ex-FIFA vice president Jack Warner after alleging collusion between Warner and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) in an attempt to defraud the “Soca Warriors” of promised bonus payments.
In January, the Warriors tried to join the Chaguanas West MP to its suit for outstanding bonus payments against the TTFF and its former president Oliver Camps but the application was denied by High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad.
However, Michael Townley, the players’ London-based attorney, is confident that the Warriors now have a much stronger case based on alleged emails between Warner, Camps, TTFF general secretary Richard Groden and attorney Om Lalla. Lalla was representing Warner and the TTFF at the time.
“What we have is evidence of collusion between Warner, Ollie Camps and Groden to divert funds from the TTFF,” Townley told Wired868.com, “and to avoid the obvious consequence of this litigation, which is namely to pay the players. We are going to bring all this to the attention of the court.
“When we made an application the last time around, the judge said there was not sufficient evidence of collusion. We believe we have that now.
“At a time when (Warner) was an agent who was not in account, they were sending him emails asking how to prepare the accounts in response to a court order. At that time, Lalla was acting for the TTFF and they were claiming that Warner was not in contact with them.”
At present, the Warriors’ joinder application is being reviewed by a QC retained by the players and should be filed early next month.
On 12 January 2012, Justice Rampersad denied the players’ initial joinder request on the grounds that they were requesting disclosure rather than payment from Warner, who had just promised to provide the relevant information. Warner subsequently reneged on his promise.
Groden and Camps repeatedly told the High Court that Warner, as Local Organising Committee (LOC) 2006 chairman, collected funds on behalf of the TTFF but then failed to account for or properly transfer the money to the local governing football body.
Townley suggested that the players have new information that disputes the TTFF’s stance.
“The court believed that the LOC had collected money and not accounted for it (to the TTFF),” said Townley. “But we can now show that $50 million was transferred out of the TTFF and into the LOC and companies owned by Warner. They said before he didn’t account for the money but they knew how much was there because they were sending it to him…
“The LOC was supposed to be collecting money to hand it over to the TTFF not the other way around.”
If the players successfully draw Warner into the court room, they will join a long and distinguished line-up of organisations who have the United National Congress (UNC) chairman under the microscope at present.
Wired868 has already revealed that Warner’s tenure as CONCACAF president and his ownership of the Centre of Excellence is being scrutinised, at present, by the United States’ Internal Revenue Services (IRS), Belgium-run international accounting firm BDO International, Chicago-based internal corporate legal body Sidley Austin LLP and a CONCACAF Integrity Committee headed by former Barbados Attorney General Sir David Simmons QC.
The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service is also investigating Warner for his role in an international bribery scandal in May 2011 that involved Qatari and former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohamed Bin Hammam. Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mark Gaspard urged the police to widen its investigations to include authorities from the local Customs and Excise Division.
The Trinidad and Tobago Integrity Commission was also asked to probe Warner on several matters too including possible discrepancies regarding the declarations of his personal assets and his letter directing Sport Minister Anil Roberts to starve the TTFF of funding, which was also revealed exclusively by Wired868.
FIFA has still not accepted Warner’s account regarding the whereabouts of aid money sent to the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president for disbursement to Haiti, which was recovering from an earthquake that left 316,000 persons dead including 30 football officials.
FIFA sent $1.6 million (US$250,000) for Haiti while the South Korea Football Association donated a further $3.2 million (US$500,000).
Federation of Haitian Football (FHF) president Yves Jean-Bart alleged that only $381,000 (US$60,000) made it to the grief-stricken island.
“Warner always told me your money is there, is available, any time,” Jean-Bart told the London Times, “but I didn’t get it.”
A recent Trinidad Express report further suggested that the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was also on Warner’s trail.
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar repeatedly refused to probe Warner’s conduct. But Townley is concerned by the bodies lined up behind the former TTFF special advisor.
“Mr Warner is being implicated all over the place and it is making me a bit nervous that so many people are chasing him at the same time,” said Townley. “We need Jack to stay afloat and solvent. The American authorities are not a soft touch and he won’t be able to blow smoke up their backsides.
“We have always needed Jack to be healthy, wealthy and wise but he has never been all three at the same time. When he is healthy, wealthy and wise, we presume he will pay us.”
Townley said the TTFF has been in touch regarding the players’ demands for information from World Cup 2006 sponsors although little headway has been made thus far.
Talks regarding a settlement between the two parties have seized and the players are weighing up their options, which include liquidating the TTFF. The football body still owes the players a $4.6 million interim payment while contempt charges against Groden and Camps were suspended but not stopped altogether.
“Bottom line is they haven’t got the money to pay us,” said Townley. “Mr Warner has the money. It is fruitless having a discussion when the other party cannot prove its ability to pay and I guess they came to the same conclusion…
“I don’t know what sort of ship (new TTFF president Raymond Tim Kee) thinks he is inheriting or what he plans to do to solve this problem. But he is obviously going in with his eyes open.”
World Cup players Kelvin Jack and Shaka Hislop insisted they would not give up their court action.
“We spent huge money on this court case and we will keep it going for as long as it takes,” said Jack. “We are not asking for anything illegal; we just want to be paid according to the terms of our contract.”
Thirteen W/Cup 2006 Warriors: David Atiba Charles, Cornell Glen, Cyd Gray, Shaka Hislop, Kelvin Jack, Avery John, Stern John, Kenwyne Jones, Brent Sancho, Collin Samuel, Aurtis Whitley, Evans Wise and Anthony Wolfe.