Jack Warner – Sureash Cholai
FORMER FIFA vice president Jack Warner wants 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.
Warner is now challenging 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.
His claim was filed in December, last year, and was set for a first hearing on March 13 by Justice Karen Reid who also ordered his attorneys to serve the application on the PS.
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 by the minister 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 was critical of the State’s handling of the extradition, a month earlier, and 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 quoted extensively from the former chief magistrate’s ruling in June 2023, and said, “I quote this to say, there may very well be something nefarious underlaying those extradition proceedings. In that context, it is not only in my interest to see how much money was spent on these proceedings, but it is also a matter of public interest.”
He also said he found the reasons given for not supplying the information for the 11 other 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.”
Warner is represented by attorney Richard Jaggasar.
His extradition proceedings in the magistrates’ court has been adjourned the matter to March 1 for a status update since his attorneys are expected to file the section 14 referral claim in the High Court.
Warner’s argument relates to the arrangement between the US and Trinidad and Tobago for extradition and the speciality principle which, by law, provides that a person who is extradited can be prosecuted or sentenced in the requesting state only in relation to the offences for which extradition was granted, and not for any other crime allegedly committed before the extradition took place.