Sunday, December 17, 2017

Keep going for goal

 The PM’s “settlement” of World Cup 2006 debts to the Soca Warriors was meant to “rekindle the spirit of togetherness and patriotism” of the historic qualification. It’s the cheapest use of “patriotism” to suppress further analysis of Jack Warner’s affairs, revealed by Sir David Simmons as a blend of personal, political and football. In the absence of the tribunal requested by the Integrity Commission into Jack, continued digging by the Warriors could price the UNC’s reliance on Jack for elections funding—as principal, agent and conduit. And, the UNC could be named as a principal beneficiary of funds belonging to the Soca Warriors.  A patriotic “settlement” could kill the truth.

With irony, journalist Lasana Liburd used “The price of patriotism” as the title for an April 2006 article on prohibitive ticket prices for local World Cup games, even with a heavy flow of sponsorship funds to the World Cup campaign. Mr Liburd warned that the Warriors seemed to have a real financial crisis: “They are bordering on destitute—in spite of a $39 million FIFA payout, $45 million guarantee from the T&T government and approximately $20 million in private sponsorship deals”. Years later, through the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF), Warner’s accounting to the Soca Warriors confirmed Liburd’s fears. In what journalist Andrew Jennings revealed as a single, unaudited TTFF spreadsheet, Jack attributed a TT$6,300 payout to each Warrior for a multimillion dollar World Cup campaign. Until the PM decided to fly to Brazil for three World Cup 2014 games, Jack’s unpatriotic accounting did not bother the UNC. 

Throughout Jack’s service as UNC chairman, its MP, and its minister of government, there was no UNC insistence on full disclosure to the Soca Warriors of the details required. As opposition and then government, the party never acknowledged the obscenity of Jack’s World Cup 2006 accounting. Compared to the Warriors’ TT$6,300 each, in 2007 Ernst and Young alleged that Jack’s family stood to profit US$1 million from the sale of Trinidad and Tobago’s World Cup ticket allocation, sold in breach of FIFA’s ethics policy for which a fine was levied. Out of the World Cup 2006, there were other profits to the Warner businesses. Jack Inc., it seemed, cashed in on the 2006 patriotism that eight years later the PM wishes to rekindle and restore to the country. Proper accounting may reveal that Jack and the UNC, not the taxpayer, must settle the Warriors.  

Over time no progress has been made on investigations, local litigation, and statutory oversight of Jack’s football finances and political largesse. One year after World Cup 2006, the country headed into a general election and based on current litigation, a company associated with SIS founder Krishna Lalla alleges a link between multimillion dollar loans to companies associated with Jack, to benefit the UNC, and FIFA funds to settle those loans. If true, even after Jack’s unpatriotic treatment of the Warriors in 2006, the UNC was allegedly benefitting from his commingling of personal, business, football, and politics.

The Soca Warriors litigation must continue. In January 2014 the Integrity Commission made an unprecedented request to the President for a tribunal into the statutory declarations filed by Jack. Witnesses told Sir David Simmons’ Integrity Committee that Jack used CONCACAF resources for personal and political activities. A tribunal appointed by the President could reveal more, including the UNC benefits from football. But, there’s no spirit of togetherness and patriotism and in seven months there’s no tribunal. For now, only the Soca Warriors’ litigation can reveal the truth about Jack, the UNC, and football’s funds.

Clarence Rambharat is a lawyer and a university lecturer