At roughly the same time that Jack Warner was offering crime-fighting tips in Trinidad and Tobago as acting prime minister and minister of works and infrastructure, he was, according to the United States Department of Justice, engaged in wire fraud, money laundering and bribery in his more illustrious portfolio as Fifa vice-president and Concacaf and Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president.
On 6 July 2010, Warner told the Trinidad Express that ‘snapping a few necks’ on Death Row in Port of Spain would help combat crime in the twin island republic.
“I have told the Attorney General [Anand Ramlogan] that when he comes to Cabinet he must tell us what are some of the things we must do so as to free ourselves from these international organisations which try to frustrate the law of the land,” said Warner, who was acting as prime minister at the time. “I am convinced that were we to reinstitute hangings, which is the law of the land, it will have a dent on crime. I am convinced.”
Documents released yesterday from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York suggest that, simultaneously, Warner was arranging ‘bribe payments totalling US$5 million (TT$33 million) […] in exchange for voting in favour of Russia to host the 2018 World Cup’.
The money was allegedly sent to a Republic Bank account controlled by Warner, in the name of the CFU, via ‘more than two dozen separate wire transfers’ between November 2010 and April 2011.
“The wire transfers were sent from 10 different shell companies, all of which were registered and maintained bank accounts in offshore jurisdictions, including Cyprus, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands,” stated the US DoJ documents, which were filed on 18 March 2020, “and were cleared through correspondent accounts located in the United States.
“The shell companies used to pay Warner formed part of a broader network of shell entities used to move money through densely layered transactions between and among offshore accounts.”
At present, Warner is challenging extradition proceedings made by the US authorities for an array of financial crimes.
The latest charges linked Warner to a ‘pattern of racketeering activity’ that range from: wire fraud, money laundering, interstate and foreign travel in-aid-of racketeering, obstruction of justice and bribery.
Warner stands co-accused with: Hugo Jinkis, Mariano Jinkis (co-owners of Argentina sports and marketing company Full Play Group SA), Hernan Lopez (CEO of Fox International), Carlos Martinez (president of FIC, Latin America), Gerard Romy (senior executive and shareholder of Spain and US based production company, Imagina Audiovisual), Ariel Alvarado (Panama football president), Manuel Burga (Peru football president), Luís Chiriboga (Ecuador football president), Marco Polo Del Nero (Brazil football president), Eduardo Deluca (Conmebol general secretary),
Eugenio Figueredo (Conmebol vice-president), José Luís Meiszner (Conmebol general secretary), Romer Osuna (Conmebol treasurer and Fifa audit and compliance member), Ricardo Teixeira (Brazil football president—before Del Nero) and Reynaldo Vasquez (El Salvador football president).
(Conmebol is the South American football confederation.)
The 16 men, according to the US DoJ, ‘conspired to use their positions to engage in schemes involving the solicitation, offer, acceptance, payment and receipt of undisclosed and illegal payments, bribes and kickbacks’.
Warner and company were further accused of ‘abuse of their positions of trust and the violation of their fiduciary duties’.
“The conspirators engaged in conduct designed to prevent the detection of their illegal activities, to conceal the location and ownership of proceeds of these activities and to promote the carrying on of those activities.
“The conduct engaged in by various members of the conspiracy included, among other things: the use of sham contracts, invoices and payment instructions designed to create an appearance of legitimacy for illicit payments; the use of various mechanisms, including trusted intermediaries, bankers, financial advisors and currency dealers, to make and facilitate the making of illicit payments; the creation and use of shell companies, nominees and numbered bank accounts in tax havens and other secretive banking jurisdictions; the active concealment of foreign bank accounts; the use of cash; the purchase of real property and other physical assets; and obstruction of justice.”
The US DoJ detailed Warner’s World Cup qualifying television rights scheme, through which he allegedly deprived Caribbean nations—including Trinidad and Tobago—of the full value of their television rights and ‘inflicted significant reputational harm on the victimised institutions, damaging their prospects for attracting conscientious members and leaders and limiting their ability to operate effectively and carry out their core missions’.
Concacaf comprises of 35 football nations, 25 of which are members of the CFU. Each nation is entitled to benefit from its home games through receipts from the gates and television rights.
However, Warner had all 25 CFU nations grant him authority to negotiate their home matches on their behalf with US-based television company, Traffic USA.
In theory, the Caribbean nations should have been stronger negotiating as a bloc. Instead, US authorities found that they were drastically short-changed, since ‘the schemes had powerful anti-competitive effects, distorting the market for the commercial rights associated with soccer and undermining the ability of other sports marketing companies to compete for such rights on terms more favourable to the rights holders’.
Warner allegedly robbed his own countrymen twice over.
“Separately, at Warner’s request, Traffic USA executives created other documents purporting to be contracts with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) for the same rights Traffic USA had purchased as part of its deal with CFU (the ‘TTFA sham contracts’),” stated court documents. “Using the title ‘special advisor’ to TTFF, Warner signed the TTFF sham contracts at approximately the same time as each of the CFU contracts.
“Upon Warner’s request, Traffic USA executives subsequently wired payments on the TTFA sham contracts from, among others, an account at Citibank in Miami, Florida to accounts controlled by Warner as bribe payments in exchange for the award and execution of the contracts for the rights to the CFU World Cup qualifier matches.”
The victims of such schemes, according to the US DoJ, were: ‘the national member associations, national teams, youth leagues and development programs that relied on financial support from their parent organisations’.
In approximately 2004, US investigators also found that Warner conspired with ‘high-ranking officials of Fifa and the South African government’ for a US$10 million bribe—twice the figure that the Trinidadian allegedly later charged Russia—for his support for their 2010 World Cup bid.
Thabo Mbeki was South Africa president and officials could not find a way to get the money directly from government funds. So, instead, they agreed to divert US$10 million meant for use by the South Africa organising committee—a cost that would instead be borne by the taxpayers of that nation.
The bribe was described as ‘support [for] the African diaspora’ in the Caribbean. Again, Warner allegedly funnelled the money through Republic Bank in Port of Spain.
“As part of the scheme, on or about 2 January 2008, 31 January 2008 and 7 March 2008, a high-ranking Fifa official caused payments totalling US$10 million,” stated the US DoJ, “to be wired from a Fifa account in Switzerland to a Bank of America correspondent account in New York, New York, for credit to accounts held in the names of CFU and Concacaf, but controlled by Jack Warner, at Republic Bank in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Soon after receiving these wire transfers, Warner caused a substantial portion of the funds to be diverted for his personal use. For example, on or about 9 January 2008, Warner directed Republic Bank officials to apply US$200,000 of the US$616,000 that had been transferred into a CFU account from Fifa, one week earlier, toward a personal loan account held in his name.
“Warner also diverted a portion of the funds into his personal accounts through intermediaries.”
On 10 May 2011, while Warner was minister of works and infrastructure under the People’s Partnership government, he is also accused of facilitating bribes paid by Fifa presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam to CFU officials at the Hyatt hotel in Port of Spain.
“[…] Following [Bin Hammam’s] address, Warner advised the CFU officials that they could pick up a ‘gift’ that afternoon in a conference room in the hotel,” stated the court documents. “Inside the conference room, CFU staff members handed each official an envelope bearing the name of the member association that he represented. Inside each envelope was US$40,000 in United States currency.
“[…] The purpose of the US$40,000 payments was to induce officials of the CFU member associations […] to vote for [Bin Hammam] in the 1 June 2011 Fifa presidential election.”
Warner, who was then MP for Chaguanas West, was never charged in Trinidad for the alleged crime on local soil, although a half dozen of his compatriots testified against him to Fifa.
Then TTFF general secretary Richard Groden admitted to collecting the bribe and returning it to Warner. He claimed that then football president Oliver Camps, who is now deceased, urged him to deceive Fifa investigators.
“I received a notice from Fifa general secretary Jérôme Valcke advising that I should come forward within 48 hours with any advice that I had relative to this matter,” said Groden, in a sworn affidavit. “I discussed Mr Valcke’s email with Mr Camps, who told me that I ‘should stick to the story’. I understood this to be a request by him to claim that the TTFF had not received any money on May 10th.
“When I received notice a few weeks ago that I was to be interviewed again, which is occurring today, I again asked Mr Camps what to do. He again said I needed to ‘stick to the story’ that we had not received any money.”
Camps, who subsequently resigned as TTFF president when Fifa opened an investigation into his conduct, claimed ignorance about the exchange with Groden.
“I do not know what you are talking about,” Camps told Wired868, during a previous interview, “and I have nothing to say about that matter.”
Wired868 sent Groden’s affidavit to the Integrity Committee in mid-2012, along with a list of witnesses to Bin Hammam’s entry into Trinidad and the alleged bribery. It is uncertain if the matter was ever investigated.
Former CCN chairman Ken Gordon was chairman of the Integrity Commission at the time. CCN is the parent body of TV6, which would have negotiated for World Cup television rights from Warner in the past.
The Bin Hammam bribery affair was Warner’s last football ‘caper’ as he resigned from Fifa in the midst of the international body’s investigation of his behaviour.
Still, Warner held on to his Cabinet portfolio for another two years and was, ironically, made minister of national security by then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar before she finally asked for his resignation—after a Concacaf Integrity Committee investigation, headed by Barbadian Sir David Simmons, implicated him in mismanagement and fraud.
In May 2015, the US DoJ issued an arrest warrant for Warner and other Fifa officials for ‘wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering’.
“Jack Warner, together with others, did knowingly and intentionally conspire to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud Fifa, Concacaf and CFU and the constituent organisations,” stated the US DoJ, “of their respective rights to honest and faithful services through bribes and kickbacks…”
Even amongst an alleged den of thieves, Warner was apparently less trusted than most. In one email exchange, an associate of ‘co-conspirator #3’—who is believed to be Peter Hargitay—sent word to Warner’s assistant that he was apprehensive of being ‘robbed’ of his slice of the Russia World Cup ‘bribe’ money.
“Kindly advise [Warner] that what was agreed is what is being done this week,” stated the email, on or about 1 November 2010. “Please also tell him that I am less worried about promises made to be fulfilled on my end than his ability to keep his promise when the time comes. Latter will cause me personally extreme trouble if my dear friend cannot keep his promise.”
At the time, due to his government post, Trinidad and Tobago citizens were obliged to refer to Warner as ‘honourable member of parliament’.