Trinidad and Tobago is now free to extradite former Fifa vice-president and Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner to face racketeering charges in the United States, after a ruling by the Privy Council in London today.
Warner, 79, is likely to face up to 20 years in jail if convicted of charges that include wire fraud, bribery and money laundering.
Thus far, Warner has lost his legal case in Trinidad and Tobago’s Magistrate’s Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and, now, the Privy Council.
What happens next is likely to be high-level exchanges between the United States Department of Justice (DoJ), which initially charged Warner on 27 May 2015, and the Office of the Attorney General to determine whether the former party is required to send an updated request.
Inevitably, Warner will return to the Port of Spain Magistrate’s Court where a magistrate must be satisfied that the accused was properly identified, the offence is extraditable, and the evidence shows the offence was committed on a balance of probabilities.
In a press release this morning, the former Government Polytechnic history teacher turned millionaire football administrator and politician said he would continue his legal fight.
“I continue to have confidence in my team led by Fyard Hosein Senior Counsel, and I have advised them to continue to press my case on the three remaining stages of these proceedings,” stated a release on Warner’s official Facebook page, purportedly issued by the one-time Minister of National Security. “I have lived in this country for nearly 80 years, and I am confident that I will continue to receive the love, affection, and respect that people from all walks of life have always extended to me. I am certain I will prevail in the end.”
Warner’s reference to “three remaining stages of these proceedings” is likely, according to a legal source, to include an appeal of the magistrate’s verdict to the Court of Appeal and, again, the Privy Council.
Arguably, it does not suggest that Warner is confident of his chances in any legal forum—but is determined to make the process as lengthy as possible.
In his statement today, Warner repeated his narrative that Fifa was the victim of a campaign by the United States, after the North American nation was overlooked for the 2022 World Cup.
He claimed the controversial global body selected the likes of Qatar and Russia—along with South Africa—to host the showpiece tournament as “developing countries who have been denied economic opportunity partly because for long periods they were under colonial domination”.
In fact, among the DoJ’s array of charges against Warner is that he arranged payments of US$10m from the South African organising committee for the 2010 World Cup, which were relayed by a Fifa bank account in Zurich, through a corresponding account in New York, to Caribbean Football Union (CFU) and Concacaf accounts controlled by the administrator at Republic Bank in Trinidad.
Legal documents released by the DoJ along with the Fifa-commissioned Michael Garcia report claimed that, bribes from World Cup bidding tournaments apart, Warner also diverted money meant to develop football in the Caribbean and, specifically, Trinidad and Tobago.
He was also accused of failing to relay close to US$690,000 (TT$4.4m) in aid money to Haiti after a tragic earthquake in Port-au-Prince in 2010.
Warner opined that his “business” should not have concerned the United States and appeared to suggest that since he was not charged locally he did not commit a crime here.
“It is unfathomable how a New York District Attorney could commence a prosecution against me based solely on the fact that monies payable to me passed through the American banking system,” stated the release. “Furthermore, it is incredulous that allegations of misconduct arising out of a Fifa meeting held in Trinidad could be prosecuted in the United States whereas, in Trinidad itself it does not constitute criminal activity.”
Warner again was arguably loose with the facts when he gave his own view of extradition.
“I note that several European countries including France and Switzerland, several Latin American countries, including Brazil, and several African and Middle Eastern countries have refused to extradite their citizens,” stated Warner. “Trinidad and Tobago is therefore an outlier.”
From the 193 countries formally recognised by the United Nations, 112 of them have extradition treaties while even those without them have agreed to extradite citizens on a case-by-case basis.
France, Switzerland and Brazil all have formal extradition treaties—although, ironically Russia and Qatar do not.
Seven years ago, as the DoJ placed Warner on Interpol’s wanted list, the then head of the ILP political party vowed that he would not be broken:
“[…] The people of Trinidad and Tobago will know that I quit Fifa and international football more than four years ago and that over the past several years I have recommitted my life to the work of improving the lot of every citizen of every creed and race in this nation.
“[…] I have fought fearlessly against all forms of injustice and corruption… I have walked away from the politics of world football to immerse myself in the improvement of lives in this country where I shall, God willing, die…”
Despite pitting his resistance to the DoJ’s extradition request as a struggle against the “great global colonisers”, Warner had no qualms about turning to the London-based Privy Council once the Port of Spain High Court and Court of Appeal said he should pack his bags.
Attorneys Clare Montgomery KC, Fyard Hosein SC, Anil Maraj, Rishi Dass, and Sasha Bridgemohansingh represented Warner.
James Lewis KC, Douglas Mendes SC, and Rachel Scott appeared for the Trinidad and Tobago Government.
Warner’s challenge at Privy Council relied on whether the extradition order was proper according to the various amendments of the Extradition Order; and whether the then Attorney General (Garvin Nicholas) breached his “right to procedural fairness” and acted in “conformity with the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago”.
“The Board is satisfied that there was no unfairness in the procedure leading to the issue of the ATP (authority to proceed) [that allowed for Warner’s extradition,” declared the Privy Council today.
The Privy Council’s verdict, rendered by Lords Hodge, Briggs, Hamblen, Burrows and Sir Declan Morgan, takes Warner a step closer to a one-way ticket for New York.
Wired868 has provided readers with solid, independent journalism since 2012. If you appreciate our work, please contribute to our efforts.
Support Independent Journalism