Sat, Jul

Jack in custody surrenders to fraud squad

Jack Warner this afternoon surrendered to police officers at the Fraud Squad, Police Headquarters, Port of Spain. He came following news that polcie had obtained a warrant for his arrest. It is uncertain whether he will appear in court today.

For the past year, the Central Authority Unit of the Ministry of the Attorney General has been working with the United States Department of Justice, regarding the criminal indictment against Jack Warner. This according to AG Garvin Nicholas, who said that police now have an arrest warrant for Warner.

In a statement issued by the Office of the Attorney General this afternoon, it was confirmed that the US formally requested the assistance of the Central Authority for the issuing of a Provisional Arrest Warrant for Warner, pending the commencement of extradition proceedings.

The request was made pursuant to the Extradition Treaty between the US and T&T Governments .

"The Provisional Arrest Warrant was issued and is now in the hands of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service for execution" the statement read.

The release stated that Warner was entitled to a fair extradition process and both the requesting and requested States intend to abide by the provisions of the Treaty to ensure that Warners rights were respected.

Warner were rumoured to have been granted bail of $2.5 million however, another report states that bail were denied.

VIDEO: - Attorney General Loretta Lynch made a statement.


Trinidad issues arrest warrant for ex-VP of FIFA Warner.
Associated Press

An arrest warrant was issued Wednesday for former FIFA vice president Jack Warner at the request of authorities in the United States, where he was one of 14 people linked to international soccer indicted on corruption charges.

The Attorney General for Trinidad and Tobago said it had been working with the U.S. Department of Justice for about a year regarding the investigation of Warner, who was forced out of FIFA in 2011 over a bribery scandal.

Warner, who is an opposition member of Parliament in the twin-island nation, can be extradited to the U.S. under a bilateral treaty following a hearing.

"Mr. Warner is entitled to a fair extradition process and both the requesting and requested States intend to abide by the provisions of the treaty to ensure that Mr. Warner's rights are respected," the attorney general said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, Warner denied any wrongdoing, as he has previously when confronted with allegations that he enriched himself while an official with the global soccer governing body and as a president of CONCACAF, the federation's North American regional organization.

Warner, who left soccer in 2011 to avoid FIFA sanctions in a bribery scandal during that year's FIFA presidential election, said he was not questioned in the probe that led to the indictment and to guilty pleas to related charges for two of his sons.

"I have been afforded no due process and I have not even been questioned in this matter," he said in a statement. "I reiterate that I am innocent of any charges. 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."

In a brief phone conversation with The Associated Press, Warner declined to comment further and said he did not have enough information about the guilty pleas of his sons to comment. "I can't say anything about what I don't know about."

Warner represents the constituency of Chaguanas West in Parliament. His term is due to expire when the session ends June 17. He can be extradited to the United States under a bilateral treaty.

Later, he told TV6 that U.S. authorities "know where to find me" and added "I sleep very soundly in the night."

FBI raids Miami Beach office of CONCACAF as part of international soccer investigation.

Federal authorities shook up the world of soccer Wednesday with an indictment charging top FIFA officials from Latin America and the Caribbean and other regional officials based in South Florida with participating in a $150 million bribery scheme over the past two decades.

Justice Department officials unveiled the indictment of 14 soccer officials and sports executives, including some arrested in Switzerland who are attending the Federation Internationale de Football Association’s governing board elections this week.

The indictment was returned by a grand jury in Brooklyn, New York, but the federal investigation revolves around not only high-ranking FIFA officials but also those in charge of its North American regional headquarters in Miami Beach, known as CONCACAF. FBI agents raided the office early Wednesday.

Also implicated in the racketeering scheme, Traffic Sports USA, which is based in Miami and until recently owned the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

Among those indicted: CONCACAF’s current president, Jeffrey Webb, who is also a FIFA vice president and executive committee member; Jack Warner, CONCACAF’s former president, who also once served as a FIFA vice president and executive committee member; and Miami resident Aaron Davidson, president of Traffic Sports USA and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the North American Soccer League, a second-tier U.S. league of which the Strikers are a member.

FBI agents arrested Davidson Tuesday night. He must first make a federal court appearance in Miami before his expected transfer to face racketeering charges in New York.

In light of the investigation, the North American Soccer League's Board of Governors said it has suspended its chairperson, Davidson, along with all business activities between the league and Traffic Sports. Commissioner Bill Peterson will serve as acting chairperson.

“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, citing “at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.”

Before the indictment was unsealed Wednesday, four other defendants pleaded guilty, including Charles Blazer, former long-serving general secretary of CONCACAF and a former FIFA executive committee member. Also pleading guilty: Jose Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group, a multinational sports marketing conglomerate headquartered in Brazil that is the parent company of Traffic Sports USA and Traffic Sports International.

“I was watching CNN this morning over breakfast and was shocked when I saw Traffic was involved,’’ said Luiz Muzzi, a soccer executive for Traffic from 2002 to 2012, now Director of Soccer Operations for FC Dallas of Major League Soccer. “I spent nine years working with a lot of those people, including Aaron, and I have only good things to say about them. I was on the soccer side, dealing with players and Strikers team issues, and don’t know all the ins and outs of the business side, but I never saw anything shady. I hope the allegations prove to be false.’’

This is how the alleged criminal “enterprise” operated during the past two decades, according to the Justice Department.

Federal authorities said top soccer officials “enriched” themselves with more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks paid by sports marketing companies, such as Traffic Sports USA, which bought FIFA’s commercial rights to promote soccer events and tournaments.

In turn, the marketing companies sold those rights “downstream” to TV and radio networks, major corporate sponsors and others that broadcast soccer matches or advertise their brands. According to FIFA, 70 percent of its $5.7 billion in revenues from 2011 to 2014 was derived from the sale of TV and marketing rights to the 2014 World Cup.

Since 1991, the 14 defendants — along with the four others who have already pleaded guilty — “corrupted” the enterprise through various criminal activities, including fraud, bribery and money laundering, according to the Justice Department.

“Two generations of soccer officials abused their positions of trust for personal gain, frequently through an alliance with unscrupulous sports marketing executives who shut out competitors and kept highly lucrative contracts for themselves through the systematic payment of bribes and kickbacks,” Justice Department officials said in a press release.

“All told, the soccer officials are charged with conspiring to solicit and receive well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for their official support of the sports marketing executives who agreed to make the unlawful payments.’’

The Justice Department’s focus on South Florida sharpened in late 2013 when Blazer — the general secretary for the Miami-based Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) — pleaded guilty to racketeering, fraud and money laundering conspiracies stemming from the bribery scheme. He agreed to turn over $1.9 million in illicit payments and to make a second payment upon his pending sentencing, according to federal court records.

Blazer also agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in New York, pointing the finger at Hawilla, the owner of the Traffic Group, the Brazilian sports marketing giant that owns Traffic Sports USA in Miami. He pleaded guilty at the end of 2014 and agreed to forfeit more than $151 million in bribery payments, according to court records. He paid $25 million at the time of his plea agreement.

Hawilla also agreed to cooperate, providing insider knowledge on the extent of Traffic Sport’s role in the bribery conspiracy, records show. In fact, Traffic Sports and another company, Traffic Sports International, pleaded guilty to a wire-fraud conspiracy charge earlier this month.

Another Miami connection in the alleged scheme: a soccer official listed as co-conspirator #4 in Wednesday’s indictment, who the Miami Herald has learned is Enrique Sanz. He succeeded Blazer as CONCACAF’s general secretary. Before assuming that position in 2012, Sanz was vice president at Traffic Sports. Sanz is listed among 25 unnamed co-conspirators in the indictment.

According to news reports, Sanz has been battling leukemia. When contacted for a comment, Sanz’s defense attorney Joseph DeMaria, stated: “At present, he and his family are focusing on his health.”

Meanwhile, in Zurich, Switzerland, prosecutors opened criminal proceedings into international soccer’s governing body awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, only hours after seven soccer officials were arrested Wednesday pending extradition to the United States in a separate Justice Department probe of “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption.

The Swiss prosecutors’ office said the U.S. probe was separate from its investigation but that authorities were working together.

FIFA said the election would go ahead as planned with Sepp Blatter going for a fifth term as president. Blatter was not named in either investigation.

FIFA also ruled out a revote of the World Cups won by Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

The Swiss prosecutors’ office said in a statement that they seized “electronic data and documents” at FIFA’s headquarters on Wednesday as part of their probe. And Swiss police said they will question 10 FIFA executive committee members who took part in the World Cup votes in December 2010.

The Swiss investigation against “persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering” again throws into doubt the integrity of the voting.

“FIFA is fully cooperating with the investigation and is supporting the collection of evidence in this regard,” FIFA said in a statement.

The Swiss announcement came only hours after 14 people were indicted in the U.S. for corruption. Seven of them were arrested and detained by Swiss police at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich.

The Justice Department said in a statement that two current FIFA vice presidents were among those arrested and indicted, Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay. The others are Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, Julio Rocha of Nicaragua, Costas Takkas of Britain, Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Jose Maria Marin of Brazil.

All seven are connected with the regional confederations of North America and South America and face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Nine of the 14 who were indicted by the Justice Department are or were soccer officials, while four are sports marketing executives; another works in broadcasting. Warner, a former FIFA vice president from Trinidad and Tobago, was among those indicted. He surrendered Wednesday afternoon after an arrest warrant was issued for him by Trinidadian authorities. Two of Warner’s sons, Daryll and Daryan, pleaded guilty to related charges after cooperating with U.S. investigators almost two years ago.

Warner, who is currently a member of the twin island’s parliament after losing his job as national security minister amid reports of an FBI probe into the damning corruption allegations, maintained his innocence Wednesday. In a statement he released on his official Facebook page, Warner said he hasn’t been afforded any due process nor has he been questioned in the matter.

He quit FIFA and international football “more than four years ago,” he said.

“I have fought fearlessly against all forms of injustice and corruption,” he noted.

In an exclusive interview with CCN/TV 6 senior multimedia investigative journalist Mark Bassant at his office Wednesday, Warner said he has nothing to hide and will be exonerated.

Warner has faced corruption allegations since the 1980s, but in 2011 — as vice president of FIFA — he was accused of attempting to bribe Caribbean delegates with $40,000 each to vote for FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam.

Warner also was accused of embezzling $15 million of federation funds and misappropriating $1 million in FIFA money earmarked for a reconstruction project in Haiti. According to the soccer confederation ethics panel, Warner also failed to disclose that the $25.9 million Havelange Centre for Excellence in Port of Spain, built with soccer funds, sits on land he owns, according to the report.

Trinidad Attorney General Garvin Nicholas told the Miami Herald that the Justice Department has sought Warner’s extradition and “the procedure has commenced.” While the two nations have an extradition agreement, it could take months before Warner, one of the most powerful and wealthiest Caribbean nationals, is brought to the United States.

Under Trinidadian law, he will have an opportunity to fight the extraditon in the courts.

“There is a process that has to be followed,” Nicholas said, adding that some extraditions move, “faster than others. It just depends.”

Nicholas said the government has been cooperating with U.S. authorities “for some time now” in the bribery scandal.

U.S. case

The U.S. case involves alleged bribes totaling more than $150 million linked to commercial deals dating to the 1990s for soccer tournaments in the United States and Latin America, according to the Justice Department. U.S. authorities said the corruption is linked to World Cup qualifying matches and the Copa America — South America’s continental championship.

In Switzerland, dozens of soccer officials have been gathered this week for the FIFA congress and presidential election, where Blatter is widely expected to win re-election at the helm of the governing body of world soccer.

Blatter was scheduled to attend a meeting of the Confederation of African Football in a different downtown Zurich hotel, but he canceled his appearance.

Blatter’s only opponent in Friday’s presidential election, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, said it was “a sad day for football,” but declined to comment further.

The arrests were made at the lakeside Baur au Lac Hotel in downtown Zurich, long favored as a place for senior FIFA officials to stay. It was the stage for intense lobbying for votes ahead of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting decisions in December 2010.

Florida connection

In Florida, a small group of agents from the FBI and IRS executed search warrants at CONCACAF headquarters in Miami Beach.

Neither agency offered comment on the investigation.

The North American regional body, known as CONCACAF, reported itself to U.S. tax authorities in 2012. Then based in New York, the organization had not paid taxes over several years when its president was Warner and secretary general was Chuck Blazer of the United States.

Warner left soccer in 2011 to avoid FIFA sanctions in a bribery scandal during that year’s presidential election. Blazer left in 2013 and has pleaded guilty to charges, the Justice Department said in Wednesday’s statement.

Warner’s successor as CONCACAF leader and FIFA vice president is Webb, who was staying at the Baur au Lac this week.

The Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in its statement that U.S. authorities suspect the arrested officials of having received or paid bribes totaling millions of dollars and that the crimes were agreed to and prepared in the U.S., and payments carried out via U.S. banks.

“The bribery suspects — representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms — are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries [FIFA delegates] and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organizations — totaling more than USD 100 million,” the FOJ statement said.

A statement in German added that the probe involved tournaments in the United States.

International media gathered at the street entrance of the Baur au Lac in scenes reminiscent of the World Cup votes won by Russia and Qatar more than four years ago.

Then, former President Bill Clinton was inside meeting FIFA voters who later rejected the American bid in favor of Qatar, and Britain’s Prince William was part of the losing English bid team.

Suspicions of vote-buying and wrongdoing in those bidding contests have dogged FIFA ever since.


Soccer glossary

▪ FIFA: Federation Internationale de Football Association is the international governing body overseeing soccer. It is composed of 209 member associations and six regional confederations, each representing organized soccer in a nation or region. FIFA is based in Zurich, Switzerland.

▪ CONCACAF: Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association of Football. The continental confederation under FIFA that governs soccer in this region. Headquartered in Miami Beach.

▪ CONMEBOL: Confederacion Sudamericana de Futbol. The federation that oversees soccer in 10 South American nations. Based in Luque, Paraguay.

▪ NASL: North American Soccer League. The second-tier professional league in the U.S. soccer pyramid. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are a member of NASL, as is the newly launched Miami FC, which is scheduled to begin play in April 2016. Aaron Davidson, a Miami resident indicted in the FIFA probe, is chairman of the NASL Board of Governors and formerly was president of the Strikers.

▪ Traffic: A Brazil-based sports marketing and media company that has a U.S. branch called Traffic USA, based in South Florida. The company negotiates broadcast rights and sponsorship deals for tournaments in the Americas such as the Copa America, Copa Libertadores and Gold Cup.

PM: No pleasure in Warner's FIFA troubles.
C News Live

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says she takes "no pleasure" in the latest development concerning the extradition request made for former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner by the United States.

On Wednesday morning, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the United States has formally indicted 14 individuals, including Mr. Warner, after years of intense forensic investigations into corruption at FIFA and their umbrella organisations.

Speaking in the House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon, she said the charges, which Mr. Warner has been found guilty of, are punishable by United States law. 

"The provisional arrest warrant was issued and I am told by the Attorney General that the arrest warrant is now in the hands of the Police Service for execution. I say it brings me no pleasure. The Member is a Member of this Honourable House. The matter is now in the hands of law enforcement officials, judicial officials, judicial officers, for due process according to the laws of Trinidad and Tobago."

Sports Minister: Warner must answer
T&T Newsday Reports.

Minister of Sport and former Soca Warrior, Brent Sancho, believes ex-FIFA vice-president Jack Warner should be extradited to the United States “to answer serious questions” posed to him by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations).

Sancho was speaking to Newsday following an early morning swoop in Switzerland by police on delegates who were convening forFriday’s FIFA presidential election where incumbent Sepp Blatter is seeking a fifth consecutive term. 

Warner, who resigned from FIFA in June 2011 amid a proliferation of allegations of corruption ahead of the previous election, is named among 14 persons indicted including current CONCACAF boss Jeffrey Webb for racketeering, fraud and money laundering. 

Sancho, who had a personal battle with Warner and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) for 2006 World Cup bonuses and accountability for close to $200 million from the 2006 World Cup campaign, had little sympathy for the former Special Advisor to the TTFA. 

“I believe once there is concrete evidence he should answer what questions are raised to him. And based on the international reports that have been coming out for the last few years he has to answer a number of serious questions,” he stated. 

Sancho said this current FIFA scandal is a reminder to all sporting bodies to adhere to the principles of integrity while in office as no longer will the world sit back and allow corrupt sporting activities to continue unpunished. 

“It’s a historic day in terms of how people will conduct business. We at home and the TTFA need to be cognizant of this. I’m not saying they have done anything illegal but we must be aware that accountability is a must. People must remember how powerful CONCACAF is in terms of voting because of the number of countries we have. It has a lot to say in terms of everything going on at FIFA and what is playing out right now,” he explained.

Panday on Warner's indictment: An example of T&T's decline
By  Sue-Ann Wayow (Express).

FORMER prime minister Basdeo Panday said that the United States Department of Justice's request to extradite Independent Liberal Party (ILP) political leader Jack Warner has been indicted for racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering, will be a long process.

Panday said he would be watching to see how the situation with Warner, a former FIFA vice president, played out.

Panday said: "I imagine they (US) will ask for extradition, it will go to court and then probably take a very long time. That is what is going to happen."

Panday who once shared a close relationship with Warner said Warner's charges only added to the increasing negative reputation that Trinidad and Tobago was having.

He said: "Trinidad and Tobago has been declining in world opinion since 2010."

Panday added: "I am going to be like the Roman emperor called Nero. And I am going to sit on this big platform and I am going to watch down into the arena at the games people play."

When asked how he felt about Warner being charged, Panday responded: "I do not feel anything for people except good things."