Jack Warner still wants info on fees paid by State in extradition

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Jack Warner – File photo

FORMER FIFA vice president Jack Warner will have to wait a little longer to find out if he will be permitted to challenge the permanent secretary of the Office of the Attorney General for failing to disclose all invoices, fee requisitions and payments to “all barristers, solicitors and attorneys” in ongoing proceedings against him.

On March 13, Justice Karen Reid adjourned Warner’s leave application hearing to March 21 so she could see what documents the former football jefe had already received from the State.

She was told certain documents were sent to Warner on Wednesday morning.

However, lead counsel for the State, Russell Martineau, SC, said the information Warner wants does not exist nor was he entitled to “information” under the Freedom of Information Act.

Martineau contends that the act only allows for the provision of “documents,” and did not require the State to “compile” information.

He also said Warner’s request raised constitutionality issues for attorneys.

“The act has to be construed with the Constitution with respect for family and private life. Financial dealings of persons involve private life.

“We have nothing to hide, we will give you information but we are not going to infringe anyone’s rights,” he said.

Martineau also said if Warner was still not content with what he had so far received, he could go to the Ombudsman for redress.

However, Warner’s attorney Richard Jaggasar said the information requested did not qualify as “personal information” but was work done by the attorneys in their professional capacity for the State, “paid for by public funds.”

He admitted the State did provide some of the information but not for 12 attorneys. He also pointed out that the initial response by the State was that documents were not going to be provided because of “privilege.”

However, Martineau said that was amended and on Wednesday morning information was sent to Warner.

In that response, the State disclosed copies of those documents that existed as they related to one of Warner’s requests for invoices and fee requisitions from attorneys hired by the State at each stage of proceedings against him.

The invoices provided were redacted showing quotes received by the Office of the Attorney General but not by whom. The invoices included sums in British pounds amounting to over £400,000 while there were quotes in TT dollars amounting to over $1.5 million. It also included some requisitions.

Martineau maintained that the State could not provide some of the information Warner asked for since those “documents “ did not exist.

“The documents, in so far as they exist, are going to be redacted and provided.”

Some of the information Warner requested that Martineau said could not be provided included a list of the sums paid to attorneys, the dates on which payments were made, and a list of the fees and/or requisitions not paid.

In his judicial review application, Warner wanted to know how much money was spent to hire attorneys to extradite him to the United States where he faces 29 charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering when he was vice president of football’s world governing body.

His claim was filed in December, last year.

The information sought in his unsuccessful freedom of information application relates to all the court matters from 2015-2023, including the committal proceedings in the magistrates’ court, the application to join the US in previous proceedings in the High Court and Court of Appeal, the Privy Council proceedings as well as his referral application to the High Court.

He is asking for declarations that the refusal to provide the information is unreasonable and irrational and wants an order compelling the PS to disclose the fee information for all attorneys, both locally and in London.

In October 2023, Warner was told there were no “sufficiently strong public interests” to release the information. It also said that these interests would be best served by refusing access to the invoices and fee requisitions for the law firms at each stage of the legal proceedings and preserving the attorney/client privileges.

Warner’s application said this decision is unsustainable. It listed the names of 17 attorneys, including two King’s Counsel, five senior counsel, and a UK law firm.

His request for information was made in July 2023 after the former chief magistrate referred his constitutional complaint to the High Court.

One of two responses from the AG’s office gave a list of six attorneys and the $7.5 million paid to them from 2015-2023.

In an affidavit in support of the judicial review application, Warner said he has borne the costs of his attorneys “solely and alone. Yet I am a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and the funds spent to extradite me are the public funds from the public purse.

“I make this point not necessarily because I consider that in and of itself to be unfair or biased, but because I have not seen, heard or read about any similar extradition proceedings piquing the interest of government officials like this ever before.”

He also said he found the reasons given for not supplying the information for some of the attorneys to be “deeply troubling.”

“I am only asking for a breakdown of fees, nothing more….It is, therefore, illogical to contend that the release of fees paid to one attorney-at-law will breach privilege but not the release of the other.”

His extradition proceeding in the magistrates’ court has been adjourned to December to allow the High Court to hear and decide on his constitutional challenge.

In February, in a radio interview, Warner was confident the case against him in the US was over because of a ruling by that country’s Supreme Court in January.

In that ruling, the court held that US prosecutors overreached their boundaries when they applied laws of the United States to groups of people, many of them being foreign nationals, who allegedly defrauded FIFA, another foreign organisation with its headquarters based in Switzerland.