White Collar Thieves
|Photo:Jack Warner Trinidad Express|
‘WHITE COLLAR THIEVES’
Concacaf integrity committee probe reveals Warner, Blazer committed fraud in football
By Mark Bassant Senior CCN Investigative Journalist in Panama City
National Security Minister Jack Warner has been found to have committed fraud through which he enriched himself in his dealings in international football.
The finding by the Integrity Committee of Concacaf has come on the heels of a series of exclusive stories on Warner’s financial wheeling and dealings by head of the Express investigative desk, Camini Marajh.
Head of Concacaf’s integrity committee, Sir David Simmons, yesterday revealed the underhanded dealings and fraud committed by Warner, former FIFA vice-president and Concacaf president, in his handling of the affairs of the regional football body.
Simmons, a former Barbados chief justice, disclosed that Warner and Chuck Blazer, former general secretary of Concacaf, “were fraudulent in their management” of the Confederation’s activities and used their offices for personal gain.
According to a Reuters report, delegates responded angrily to the report with one describing Warner and American Blazer as “white collar thieves”.
In his 20-minute synopsis of the 113-page report into Concacaf’s finances under the leadership of Warner and Blazer, Simmons revealed the findings of a forensic audit into Concacaf finances based on documents and interviews with 38 people to the Concacaf XXVIII Congress in Panama.
Simmons outlined several areas his committee was appointed to investigate, which included:
• Ownership of the US$25.9 million Dr Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence at Macoya
• An apartment in Trump Plaza
• Whereabouts of funds generated from a contract between Concacaf and UMBRO—an English sportswear and football equipment supplier based in Manchester, England
• Two apartments in Miami and a Hummer, a luxury SUV
• Employment contract of former general secretary Blazer and the provisions of contract
• Concacaf’s failure to pay taxes and file tax returns
• Completeness and accuracy of Concacaf’s finances and audits.
Simmons told the Congress that neither Warner nor Blazer co-operated with the investigation and neither responded to queries by the Committee.
He said contact was only made with Warner’s accountant last week who promised to submit something in writing but never did.
Simmons said that as a result of this lack of co-operation, the Report was completed without responses to the Committee’s queries.
He said during their detailed investigation, the Integrity Committee obtained several documents and minutes from the FIFA executive and tried to get further evidence from the former FIFA president and Concacaf Secretary, “but they refused.”
According to Simmons, investigations also centred on getting documents from external sources as well as obtaining help from the consulting firm BDO Forensic Accounting and oral evidence from witnesses.
“When you read this report you will see the documents were most revealing and compelling,” Simmons stated.
As to the ownership of the Dr Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence, based at Macoya, Tunapuna, Simmons said that in July 1995, Warner told the FIFA executive that the purpose of the centre was to help raise the quality of Concacaf soccer.
He added that “the statutes of Concacaf did not authorise any real estate, and there was no evidence to show that Mr Warner sought or obtained the approval of the Congress of the executive committee for the construction of the Dr Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence on lands in Trinidad”.
In seeking to determine where the land came from, Simmons said, “We examined the title deeds and found out the Centre of Excellence sits on three different parcels of lands owned by CCAN and Renraw Investments Ltd.” These companies are owned by Warner and his family.
Simmons revealed that the lands were bought between March 15, 1996 and August 1998 by CCAN and Renraw, but this was never disclosed to the Congress.
“We found no evidence that this was disclosed to the Congress … that the centre was built on lands owned by Mr Warner’s company.
Simmons pointed to evidence of several bank accounts from which money was funnelled to finance the development of the Centre of Excellence, on which sits a 33-room hotel.
He added that between 1996-2006 Concacaf obtained US$25.95 million towards its construction.
According to Simmons, “Mr Warner represented to FIFA that the funds were to develop and support the Centre of Excellence—he never told them it will be situated on lands owned by his company.”
The investigations also revealed that six million francs in March 1997 was approved for borrowing by FIFA for Warner and was placed in a bank account controlled by Warner.
Simmons told the Congress FIFA gave an additional US$10 million to Warner who also obtained money from the Australians.
“We also discovered FIFA funds were used to purchase parcel one and two,” Simmons said.
He added, “Mr Warner wrote FIFA giving an account on how he would use the funds (US$643,000) but he failed to mention the land was purchased by his companies,” or that the other two parcels of land were paid for by FIFA’s funds.
Further, he said, in 1998, Concacaf’s name appeared in a mortgage deed as a borrower but the deeds were signed on behalf of Concacaf by vice-president of Concacaf Caribbean, Lisle Austin and Harold Taylor who were never authorised to sign.
Based on this, Simmons said it was a serious indictment on Warner “that is liable to deceit and a breach of his fiduciary duties”.
“Mr Warner engaged in self dealing in which he probably got a secret profit,” Simmons said.
Of paramount concern as well, Simmons said, was the operation of the controversial Dr Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence. During 1996-2011 Concacaf paid US$11 million through routine monthly payments to support the operations of the centre and Warner’s office to the tune of some US$5.6 million in 2011.
This, he said, was sent by wire transfer to a First Citizens account controlled by Warner but Simmons revealed that the Integrity Committee did not have access to those accounting records.
Warner’s auditor Kenny Rampersad was also found to be personally involved in Warner’s businesses.
According to Simmons, “As a matter of public record Rampersad was on record as being authorised to act on behalf of Mr Warner’s company.”
Rampersad acted as an accountant for Concacaf in Warner’s TT based operations and the Report revealed that when Concacaf got approval for the $6 million francs loan from Switzerland, Rampersad signed on behalf of the Centre of Excellence. Rampersad was also the accountant for Blazer.
Simmons described Rampersad’s audit to the Committee, as “badly flawed”.
“This is a sad and sorry tale in the life of Concacaf, a tale of abuse and position of power when persons who assisted in bringing the organisation profitability, enriched themselves at the expense of their own organisation,” Simmons said.
He told members “there are lessons to be learnt when you read through the 113 page report: Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the ramifications of the tragic experiences that made the investigation a historic necessity.”
Several of the members later questioned the Integrity Committee and Simmons said several jurisdictions were involved in this investigation and there was no limitation to the fraud.
Concacaf president Jeffrey Webb said that based on the report, a task force will be formed to look into it further.
As reported in The Trinidad Express Newspaper Saturday 04/20//12
Mahogany Coconut Comment: We have long called for Jack Warner's removal from public office.