Warner gets green light to seek info on legal fees for extradition case

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Jack Warner – File photo

FORMER FIFA vice president Jack Warner has been 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 21, Justice Karen Reid said it was the court’s view that the issues raised by Warner could only be resolved at a trial.

She also said she made her decision after reading what Warner and the permanent secretary had submitted to the court so far.

Warner was allowed to file his claim for judicial review by April 4. He contends that he should receive unredacted documents for all the attorneys for the State in the extradition matter.

“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.

He accused the permanent secretary of “obfuscation,” since he received some information, but then received redacted information padded with triplicates and duplicates.

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 while 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 and 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.

In October 2023, Warner was told there were no “sufficiently strong public interests” to release the information. The permanent secretary also said 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 applied for judicial review in December.

Initially refused his FOI request, Warner received some information. One of two responses from the AG’s office gave a list of six attorneys and the $6.5 million paid to them from 2015-2023.

“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.

“It is a reasonable request for monies spent by a public authority using public funds.”

On March 21, Warner’s attorney Richard Jaggasar also said it was obvious information was missing. In response to some of his other concerns, Reid said the court’s order would cover his concerns relating to the other attorneys whose fees were not accounted for.

“That would depend on a finding of fact. As to whether documents exist, that would have to be a question of fact.”

At a hearing on March 12, lead counsel for the State Russell Martineau, SC, said the information Warner wanted did not exist in the way it was requested.

He also said the request raised constitutionality issues for attorneys.

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

However, Warner contends that the privacy and constitutional considerations “held no weight or water.”

“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.”

Reid has adjourned the matter to June 26.