PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Wednesday April 3, 2013 – The main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) Tuesday predicted that the United States would implement “other unpleasant actions’ as it blanks the request from the Trinidad and Tobago government for information on whether or not National Security Minister Austin “Jack” Warner is the subject of a probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) involving soccer’s global governing body.
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar said that Washington had not responded officially to her government’s request on the probe reported by the international news agency, Reuters last week.
“I am committed to upholding the high ethical standards which the public legitimately and rightly expects of my Government, but I am equally mindful that the commitment to the rule of law requires balance and respect for the presumption of innocence,” she said in a statement.
“As Head of the Government, I would make an informed decision in this matter once the facts are established,” she added.
But PNM and Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley told a news conference Tuesday that the four-party coalition People’s Partnership government has in the past gone out of its way to protect Warner and that Washington may have signaled its disappointment over other aspects of cooperation with Port of Spain.
“…as we fail to cooperate with extradition, as we protect persons who have questions to answer, as we elevate them in our national security system, as we promote them to high office in the Cabinet, as we protect them from the media, we will very well find other unpleasant actions coming from the United States which would have serious effects on the population of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Rowley accused Prime Minister Persad Bissessar of deliberately stalling investigations to protect Warner, adding “is it that while everybody else knew that something was happening and something very serious was happening that the Prime Minister did not receive from our established channels and from officers of the state information as to whether in fact this matters was what it was being said to be.
“It is only when Reuters published the story that the Prime Minister is now going to tell the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney General to find out if anything is going on. So what was the Prime Minister’s interest before and I daresay it was the same stance as it was before on all the Jack warner matters,” Rowley told reporters.
Reuters News Service in an exclusive report last Wednesday said that an FBI probe into alleged corruption in international soccer has recently intensified after investigators persuaded a key party to be a cooperating witness, U.S. law enforcement sources said.
Reuters quoted the sources as saying that Daryan Warner, the son of the National Security Minister and former FIFA vice-president is assisting the probe, but could not say who might be charged, or when.
“While the exact scope of the investigation is not clear, among the matters under scrutiny are two previously reported allegations involving Jack Warner, who is currently national security minister in his native Trinidad and Tobago.
“The deepening of the probe indicates that a succession of corruption scandals involving FIFA and other international soccer bodies in the past few years may continue to cast a cloud over the sport for some time,” Reuters reported.
The international news agency said that Warner has not been charged with any wrongdoing and that since 2011, the FBI has been examining more than US$500,000 in payments made by the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) over the past 20 years to an offshore company headed by top U.S. soccer official Chuck Blazer.
Rowley said that Prime Minister Persad Bissessar is afraid of removing Warner, who is also chairman of the ruling UNC, from her Cabinet and that as long as he remains in his post the country would suffer.
This is not the first time that Prime Minister Persad Bissessar has sought to tread carefully in international football matters involving Warner, the former head of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).
In 2011, she stood by her embattled senior cabinet minister, when he was temporarily suspended by FIFA, while allegations of bribery against him were being investigated.
On Monday, the leader of the Movement for Social justice (MSJ), David Abdulah accused the Prime Minister of attempting to “duck and hide” on the issue.
The MSJ, which was once a part of the coalition government here, said that as long as Warner remains as national security minister he cannot interface with his US counterparts on the allegation.
Abdulah told a news conference that he does not believe a foreign government is obligated to divulge matters about which law enforcement officers are pursuing. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)