Warner: AG’s office stalling on fee-payment request

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Former Fifa vice president Jack Warner – File photo

FORMER FIFA vice president Jack Warner has accused the Office of the Attorney General of “obfuscation” by failing to disclose all invoices, fee requisitions, and payments to “all barristers, solicitors, and attorneys” in ongoing extradition proceedings against him.

“These are monies spent from the public purse so the taxpayers have a right to know,” Warner said in an affidavit filed on March 15.

In a freedom-of-information request in July 2023, Warner wanted to know how much money was spent to hire attorneys to extradite him to the US, where he faces 29 charges of fraud, corruption, and money laundering when he was vice president of football’s world governing body.

The information 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, and Privy Council proceedings, as well as his referral application to the High Court.

In October 2023, Warner was told by the ministry’s permanent secretary there were no “sufficiently strong public interests” to release the information.

He was also told 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 attorney/client privilege.

Warner then filed an application for judicial review in December. Justice Karen Reid is expected to give her decision on March 21.

Warner’s application said this decision is unsustainable. It listed the names of 18 attorneys, including two King’s Counsel, five senior counsel, and a UK law firm.

His latest affidavit said after the permanent secretary of the Office of the Attorney General initially refused his FOI request, he got some information.

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

He received information again this week but said the redacted information was padded with triplicates and duplicates.

“I do not accept this as a response… I see this as another fabrication and an attempt to mislead and fool us.”

He said the ministry can provide copies of invoices, fee requisitions, and any other document it has received from the 18 barristers, attorneys, and solicitors.

He also said it needs to disclose either a list of payments to these 18 attorneys or copies of official documents with information such as cheques or stamped invoices.

“It is a reasonable request for (an account of) monies spent by a public authority using public funds.”

At the March 13 hearing before Reid, lead counsel for the State, Russell Martineau, SC, said the information Warner wanted did not exist in the way it was requested.

Martineau contends that the Freedom of Information 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.

But on Friday, Warner said the privacy and constitutional considerations “held no weight or water.

“What has been provided does not begin to scratch the surface of the request I made. I reiterate my concerns regarding the apparent obfuscation and reluctance by the intended respondent to fully disclose the requested information while simultaneously claiming to be fully transparent and open.”