New Warner Evidence: Fraud, Conspiracy and Cash in the Desk

Don't look now, but former CONCACAF President Jack Warner, The Pirate of the Caribbean, may have finally run out of luck. Intrepid T&T journalist Lasana Liburd has published a copy of an affidavit that T&TFF General Secretary Richard Groden gave to FIFA last September, describing fraud, conspiracy and - best of all - Jack Warner stuffing an envelope full of $US100 bills into the drawer of his desk in the Transportation Ministry.

This one is going to be hard to ignore, although you can bet your last dime that the government is going to give it a try anyway.

You'll recall that Warner managed to dodge the well-deserved bullet from FIFA when he agreed to resign in return for Blatter & Co. terminating any and all investigations of his activities, thereby allowing him to claim - as he does to this day when the subject comes up - that FIFA found him "innocent".

A baldfaced lie, to be sure, but one that FIFA made possible - even plausible - when they gleefully dropped his case in return for a promise to go the hell away and not come back, since having Jack's smiling face sitting around the ExCo table was going to make Sepp's "reform campaign" appear even more laugh-worthy than it already was.

The Groden testimony gives us a small glimpse of the kind of dirt that FIFA is still sitting on as their end of the resignation deal, an agreement which never looked particularly smart and just gets uglier as the months roll by.

Further, as we all know, his political power in Trinibago has insulated him from having to face any kind of criminal investigation back home despite a laundry list of offenses which would find most anyone else wearing an orange jumpsuit and eating with a spoon for five-to-fifteen.

Being the man who led and financed a seriously down-and-out political party which then went on to win national elections behind a hand-picked Prime Minister gave him an iron-clad insulation from police, prosecutors and anyone else who might want to find out just how vulnerable he really is in a court of law.

Two weeks ago the T&T government was forced to defend a parliamentary no-confidence vote, a situation which is practically unheard of down there.

One of the major items listed in the accusations against PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar's government was - not surprisingly - the presence within the nation's cabinet of an internationally reviled crook named Jack Warner.

In particular, the opposition focused on the story, which was just then breaking, of the US$700,000 which FIFA says was entrusted to Warner for Haitian Earthquake relief but which the Haiti FA says never arrived on that unfortunate island.

At the time, the only response from Uncle Jack was the release of a pair of letters from Haitian Federation (FHF) President Yves Jean-Bart, one of which thanked Warner for his "generous offer of assistance" and the other spelling out how the promised money would be spent.

Warner claimed the letters were "evidence" proving that he gave the FHF the cash when, of course, they did nothing of the kind.

Then suddenly, on the day before the no-confidence motion was to be debated and with Warner's theft high up on the debate agenda, the skies opened up over Zurich and the kind of airdrop which Europe last witnessed in 1945 fell on FIFA House as Warner delivered an ocean of documentation which was described variously as "overwhelming" and "a sea of paper".

Jack announced that these documents "prove" that not only had he handed over all $750k to the FHF but had, in fact, given them close to US$1,000,000 - the implication being that he chipped in a quarter mil of his own - and declared that the issue was now "legally settled".

The only problem was that FIFA had no idea what this tsunami of paper did or didn't prove and was unable to even provide an estimate of how long it might take their legal and accounting people to sort through it all.

Now of course to you and I it seems like a simple thing: produce copies of a couple canceled checks, maybe toss in a bank statement or two, done deal. But if Warner was able to come up with that kind of stuff - in other words, actual proof of payment - he would presumably have done so when the subject first came up.

The fact that he didn't - and apparently still hasn't - would seem to speak for itself.

As of today - two weeks later - FIFA still hasn't figured out what all this paper really is, but that was never the point; dropping a few filing cabinets on Zurich allowed Warner to claim he had proved himself innocent, and nobody was able to prove otherwise.

The only thing it proved conclusively is that Uncle Jack still has some tricks up his sleeve.

So with the help of a classic Jack Warner misdirection play - release some documents, claim they prove something, have the press duly report same - Persad-Bissessar's government survived the vote only to find itself in the middle of an ugly fight over the People's Party chairmanship, a post currently occupied by Warner.

The voting is tomorrow, and Jack is facing a particularly strong and determined opposition from within his own party ranks, engendered by the notion that having this openly corrupt SOB in charge doesn't truly reflect the goals of a movement determined to eliminate corruption.

And into the heat of the contest - the vote is scheduled for Saturday - comes the Liburd revelation which is as damning as anything yet made public in this long and sordid case.

You'll need to read the whole thing to get the full flavor of it but among other things, Groden told FIFA:

- Warner sent FIFA two letters purporting to be official correspondence from the federation, denying that any money was distributed at the May 10 CFU meeting in Port of Spain. The T&TFF knew nothing about them and, in fact, Groden says that they were both written on federation letterhead which had been replaced six months prior. The leftover letterhead was discarded and the only remaining stock was in Warner's CONCACAF office.

- He (Groden) accepted an envelope from Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester in the hotel lobby which, they told him, contained $40,000 cash, and locked it in the T&TFF office safe. A week later he went to see Warner at his ministry office and gave it back to him. He says Warner asked no questions, but simply took the envelope and put it in his desk drawer.

- It was Warner, not Bin Hammam, who told the delegates to take the money.

Warner is refusing to comment - he may be busy getting together another massive document drop, possibly on Liburd's head - and Groden is supposedly in the US with the T&T U-23 team although no one has been able to contact him.

Warner also reportedly scoffed at the notion that the T&T government might come after him over all of this, saying that it would be a case of "government interference" that would only serve to get the federation suspended by FIFA.

And finally, there's this:

The T&T police have refused repeated written requests for comment, particularly about the by now well established fact that government minister Jack Warner actively participated in a scheme which resulted in the smuggling of at least US$1,000,000 (and probably twice that) into the country illegally.

Even now, almost a year after the fact, the police have still not taken a single statement on the topic from anyone.

And aside from Liburd, who I certainly hope checks under his car before he starts it every morning, the T&T media are giving the story a pass.