(Trinidad Express By Camini Marajh Head Investigative Desk) It was a tale of treachery that caused a football tsunami the likes of which a vexed Austin Jack Warner had threatened to unleash on the House of FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) after his Zurich face-off with former close ally and FIFA president, Sepp Blatter.
Instead, it swept him away into a sea of much deeper corruption allegations and global law enforcement scrutiny.
Decades-old payments he had made from a CFU (Caribbean Football Union) bank account to an offshore company of another longstanding FIFA friend and confidant turned whistle-blower, Chuck Blazer, had caught the attention of United States authorities probing corruption in international football.
On March 27, Reuters reported that Warner’s son and business partner, Daryan, had turned “cooperating witness” to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and US tax authorities, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in connection with a US$500,000 payout made over 20 years.
Minister Warner has refused to address directly whether he is a person of interest or comment on his son’s role as a “cooperating witness” in an FBI football corruption investigation.
Meanwhile, in Panama City, another Pandora’s Box revealing more of Warner’s dark football secrets is set to open at CONCACAF’s Congress later this week. This one, too, is said to contain all the makings of a football tsunami of corruption claims and is expected to attract even more law enforcement interest.
The IRS is already digging deep into this particular box of muddled finances which leads right back to the Warner-Blazer duet, according to persons familiar with the situation.
At home, Sunday Express investigations into Warner’s activities reveal that the once powerful football figure–who had a box seat on the world and access to heads of state, private jets and corporate CEOs—used his network of football and political connections to build a family business empire and personal fortune of about $200 million which from all accounts is a conservative estimate.
Some of this money came from cash transfers from the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) to bank accounts held in the names of private Warner companies; so-called cash “gifts” in the tens of millions of dollars; rich World Cup TV broadcast deals run through a Cayman-registered company; World Cup tickets racket and vast flows of income from several sources, including the Dr Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence at Macoya, property rentals and miscellaneous fees from football bodies.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Chaguanas West, who emerged as the top-ranked cabinet minister in two surveys and served at times as this country’s acting prime minister, has featured in repeated allegations of corruption over the years and up until the events of May 2011 remained an untouchable, protected in the main by his scandal-scarred football boss, Blatter, even from complaints emanating from within the FIFA oligarchy, according to FIFA board minutes seen by this reporter.
The one-time star Government Minister, badly damaged by the Mohamed bin Hammam cash-for-vote affair which was played out on his front lawn at a Port of Spain hotel, has vehemently denied all allegations of wrongdoing but has inexplicably refused to have his day in court—either at the FIFA Ethics Committee hearing or the International Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS)—opting instead to quit the bright lights of world football and to stay on the offensive, threatening a tsunami on Blatter’s House of FIFA and indulging in personal attacks against his detractors.
Even now, in the face of serious questions about financial irregularities in all of the football bodies he presided over—CONCACAF, CFU, TTFF and LOC (Local Organising Committee) Germany 2006 Ltd—Warner, the Minister of National Security in the People’s Partnership Government, has refused to address specific questions put to him by this newspaper and has complained instead of being the “most vilified” public official in the land.
Sunday Express investigations show that the former special adviser to TTFF transferred out tens of millions of dollars from the national football association’s bank accounts to a local organising company, LOC Germany 2006 Ltd, which was set up by his personal accountant, Kenny Rampersad.
Warner was both a director and chairman of LOC Germany, the corporate vehicle set up to collect money for transfer to TTFF’s road to Germany 2006 World Cup campaign. He was also the man calling the shots, according to TTFF’s top officials, Oliver Camps and Richard Groden.
The two Warner front men were also directors in the February 2004-incorporated entity along with Warner’s other son, Daryll, and his secretary of long standing, Patricia Modeste.
On February 21, 2004, 15 days after LOC Germany opened shop, TTFF special adviser Warner, dispatched a single page of correspondence to LOC Germany. In it, he gave himself via the newly-registered company the power and authority to negotiate all sponsorships, endorsements, match arrangements and other money-spinning opportunities associated with the Soca Warriors qualification for the 2006 World Cup.
Bank statements, payment vouchers and other financial records obtained by the Sunday Express show a reversal of roles between the national football association and its duly-appointed “negotiating agent”, LOC Germany, with the agent company stripping TTFF’s accounts of surplus cash instead of paying out World Cup sponsorship money it had collected to designated accounts.
Documents also reveal that, at times, LOC Germany withdrew funds before it even hit the account.
Financial records show at least TT$100 million of public and private sector funds have gone missing. Tens of millions of dollars in World Cup funds were being tapped from TTFF’s bank accounts by the Warner-run LOC Germany entity and by private corporations owned by him, specifically Jamad Ltd, JAW Ltd and Sportel Ltd.
Four sets of financial statements produced in just as many years by Warner’s accountant-in-chief Rampersad show significant omissions from the balance sheet. Public grants and other sponsorship money that should have gone into TTFF’s bank accounts, according to official government records, have simply disappeared.
By the state’s own calculations, a minimum of $205.6 million in public and private sector funds were paid to the national football association in support of the 2006 World Cup campaign.
The various Rampersad financial statements, however, paint a far more modest picture. They reflect many discrepancies, conflicting numbers and more than $100 million missing in World Cup income.
Michael Townley, the British lawyer pursuing the Soca Warriors’ claim that Warner and the national football association drastically understated the Warriors
2006 World Cup income, described the financial information provided by TTFF and its accountant as “works of fiction”.
In pleadings made to a case management conference (CMC) before Justice Devindra Rampersad, Townley told of a tangled tale of opaque and misleading financial records, of the deliberate and continued attempt to conceal tens of millions of dollars to deny the players what is contractually owed to them and of Warner’s effective control of LOC Germany.
Townley told the court about the hardship of extracting credible information from the TTFF and its “rogue” agent Jack Warner—even in the face of legal orders. Townley spoke of the rigged game the football association has played with the court and its disregard for the process of law.
Sponsorship information provided to Townley by the previous administration reveal that $205.6 million in State and private sector contributions were made to the TTFF in support of the Soca Warriors historic 2006 World Cup qualification.
The schedule of payments show that the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs provided just over $60.3 million, government state agencies $21.8 million and private sector corporations, including Atlantic LNG, Adidas, BHP Billiton and British Gas, $88.1 million.
The government disclosure also cited a CHF 7 million (Swiss francs) or TT$35.2 million figure in relation to the qualification grant from FIFA.
But the first Rampersad account, dated October 5, 2006 and addressed to Warner in his capacity as president of CONCACAF (the body which represents football federations from North and Central America and the Caribbean), made no mention of the CHF 7 million FIFA grant or Atlantic LNG’s $3 million contribution.
The October statement gives a total sponsorship income of a mere $13 million.
Warner’s main man of business produced another set of accounts in November 2007 for an arbitration dispute headed to a London courtroom after the players rejected the 2006 financials and a settlement offer of just over $5,000 per player. Rampersad’s financials were addressed to Om Lalla, a key Warner attorney.
The FIFA grant appears in the 2007 accounts but the figure is trimmed by $1 million or TT$5 million. It also records for the first time a $600,000 grant from government but cuts the sponsorship income to $6.5m million. No explanation is given for these material adjustments.
In 2010, a court order forced the production of a financial statement for LOC Germany but this too contains significant omissions by Rampersad, who declares a total grant and sponsorship income of $54.5 million. More accounting games are played with the production of yet another set of court-ordered financial statements for TTFF in June 2011.
This one too has all the hallmarks of Rampersad, whose stock response to questions relating to the missing millions, built-in conflicts of interest, inflated expenses and understated income was: “I am not at liberty to discuss the affairs of my clients, past or present.”
He asked the Sunday Express to submit its questions in writing but up to press time there was no response.
The roster of sponsors named in the 2011 accounts show a $1.6 million grant from government and, for the first time in any of the Rampersad-produced accounts, a $250,000 contribution from British Gas.
Atlantic LNG did not make the roster of sponsors and the National Gas Company and BHP Billiton, which had fallen off the previous 2006 TTFF statement, made a return.
The contribution of State telecom giant TSTT tripled from $4 million in 2006 to $12.6 million in 2011.
Adidas, previously listed in 2006 with a $1.8 million contribution, went up to a wholesome $5.8 million in the 2011 filing.
There were other curious statements contained in the financials. Rampersad’s accounts, in talking about the FIFA CHF 6 million or TT$27.7 million grant, referred to the FIFA money being “Due to TTFF” although FIFA itself had written Warner as “president “of TTFF in November 2006 asking for banking instructions.
The November 15 letter, written by FIFA’s director of Finance, Markus Kattner, noted: “We kindly ask for your confirmation that we can transfer the balance to the official account of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation immediately. Please note that we will transfer the balance in USD as per the daily rate of the day of the transaction.”
Bank statements obtained through a court-ordered levy on the premises of the now insolvent national football association does not reflect substantial sponsorship funds, including the FIFA World Cup-Germany prize money.
Camps and Groden say their knowledge extends only to the three bank accounts disclosed to the court.
Neither had much to say to the Sunday Express. Camps declined comment, saying his memory was not as good as it used to be and Groden said only: “I prefer not to speak without a lawyer.”
The two football officials, in affidavits given to the court, have maintained that they knew nothing about the affairs of LOC Germany (although they were both listed as directors), and had no knowledge of anything outside of the information already provided to the court.
TTFF’s top officials told the court that Warner not only had exclusive control of LOC Germany but had possession of all of the football association’s financial records and company files.
Both men told the court it should look to Warner for an account of company records and other financial information since he was the man in charge and ultimately responsible for the affairs of the football association and its agent company, LOC Germany.
They have refused to go after Warner on the ground that he is a substantial creditor of the TTFF, but have provided no explanation about the circumstances leading to this creditor status.
Bank records for three of the association’s accounts show substantial payments in the tens of millions to Warner, his private companies, other family-owned businesses and LOC Germany.
Warner has denied that he had a “professional client/accountant relationship” with Rampersad in a statement filed in the CMC hearing, but conceded that Rampersad was the accountant of several football bodies with which he had been associated, including TTFF, CFU and CONCACAF.
He omitted to say that the accounting briefs were either given directly or recommended by him. He also failed to disclose that Rampersad made a string of cameo appearances as a corporate officer in several of his private corporations.
The Warner affidavit said he was prepared to provide TTFF with the “information or documentation” relevant to helping the players determine the quantum of income earned during the 2006 World Cup effort so that they could determine what they are truthfully owed, but later told the court via his attorney that he had already provided all of the information in his possession and had nothing more to add.
Sources with knowledge of the pay dispute say the players and the TTFF are unlikely to return to court and are close to reaching a settlement on the claim.
It’s one less tsunami for Jack Warner to worry about but it has washed up a lot of driftwood on his home shore.