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By Andre Bagoo Saturday, April 20 2013

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FORMER Chief Justice of Barbados Sir David Simmons yesterday alleged that Minister of National Security Jack Warner “deceived persons and organisations” in relation to the true ownership of the Centre of Excellence, according to reports of findings delivered by Sir David to a Concacaf Congress.

Sir David, 73, the head of Concacaf’s specially-appointed integrity committee, alleged that Warner, 70, in deals related to the centre at Macoya, “deceived persons and organisations” into believing the facility was Concacaf’s and not Warner’s.

The former Barbados Chief Justice, who is currently chairman of the Cabinet-appointed Commission of Inquiry into the events of 1990, said: “Approximately US $26 million (TT$163 million) of Concacaf funds went into a Centre of Excellence and that is no longer an asset of Concacaf. Warner represented to Fifa that funds would be used to support development but never told Fifa that the centre would be situated on land owned by his companies.”

Funding for the facility, Sir David said, came from a number of sources including transfers from Fifa, loans from a Swiss bank – which Fifa repaid, and “donations” from Australia. However, “the money went straight into the bank account of Mr Warner through companies owned by him through partnerships.” He said at least US$5 million (TT$31.5 million) may have been sent to an account held by Warner. The jurist, in his report to the Concacaf Congress in Panama City, Panama, further alleged that Warner and former Concacaf general secretary Chuck Blazer, were guilty of “fraudulent management” of the confederation’s affairs.

Sir David was presenting the findings of a committee appointed by Concacaf in September 2012 to probe the financial affairs of its previous administration, led by Warner, who quit football amid a FIFA bribery scandal in 2011. The 113-page report was compiled based on documents and interviews with 38 people.

The other committee members included Judge Ricardo Urbina, a retired Unites States District Court Judge for the District of Columbia and Ernesto Hempe, a retired partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In an immediate response, Warner denied any wrongdoing and stated he would not tender his resignation from cabinet in the wake of the findings of Sir David.

At the same time, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last nightsaid she was looking into the findings and was quoted as saying she would have to take action.

“I have not seen the report but I would need to take a look at what was said,” the Prime Minister told Newsday. She was last night quoted by CNC3 News as saying, “should these allegations be true, they tell a tale of a tragic scenario. I have action to take. Natural justice demands that I see the report first.” The television station described the Prime Minister as being shocked by the allegations.

Sir David’s report to the Concacaf Congress came ahead of a private motion in Parliament next week Friday on Warner.

Reuters reported that Sir David began his address to the congress, including FIFA president Sepp Blatter, by highlighting the case of the Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence. The committee reported that the Centre, in which Concacaf invested at least $25.9 million – some of which included loans from world soccer’s governing body FIFA – was built on land owned by Warner privately and not the confederation.

JACK from Page 3A

“Warner represented to FIFA that funds would be used to support development but never told FIFA that Centre would be situated on land owned by his companies,” said Sir David. “There is no evidence that Warner or anyone else ever disclosed to the Concacaf executive committee or congress that lands on which the Centre was built was owned by his companies.”

Further findings indicated that Fifa funds were used to purchase the third of three parcels on which the Centre of Excellence is built on behalf of one of Warner’s companies. The purchase was said to be at an undervalue.

“Mr Warner engaged in secret dealings in which he probably made a secret profit,” Sir David was reported to have said. “Mr Warner deceived those persons or companies into believing that the Center of Excellence was a Concacaf property.” He said Warner was in breach of fiduciary duties and criticised the role of a former Concacaf accountant. He summed it up as a tale of greed: “a sad and sorry tale in the life of Concacaf when the likes of persons who assisted in bringing the organisation profitability enrich themselves at the expense of their own organisation.”

Blazer did not escape scrutiny from the Simmons report which revealed that the American, who worked without a contract since July 18, 1998, received over US$20 million in compensation from Concacaf including US$17 million in commission.

Simmons also laid the blame of Concacaf losing their tax-exempt status as a non-profit organisation in the US exclusively on the shoulders of Blazer who was “entirely negligent” for failing to file the body’s income tax returns. Sir David also noted that Concacaf’s auditor- Kenny Rampersad and Company in Trinidad - was not independent as both Warner and Blazer was its private clients.

The Ethics Committee was yesterday instructed to continue their probe into the ownership of the Centre of Excellence.

Warner yesterday declared that he will not tender his resignation in the wake of reports of the findings. Newsday caught up with the Chaguanas MP inside the Parliament building as he was stepping out of the chamber where a debate was still ongoing.

Asked if he would resign in the wake of the findings by Sir David of “fraudulent management”, Warner said, “Why should I resign? For Concacaf and Fifa? I will resign tomorrow morning for anything I have done here. But if you want to look at my record at Concacaf and Fifa which shall be in the Parliament next week Friday, it is impeccable. Why should I resign? In Concacaf and Fifa I have been an achiever. I am asked to resign for something outside of Trinidad for something in which I have been a member for 20 years in one case and 30 years for another. At the end of the day I do not see a reason. What have I to resign for?”

Asked to respond to the allegation of “fraudulent management” Warner questioned whether Sir David’s report was a matter of allegations or evidence.

“I don’t know what he said and I do not know if that is a matter of evidence or a matter of allegations,” the minister said. “I have not seen the report and believe you me I am not even remotely interested.” Warner said he declined to appear before Sir David and the committee.

“He wrote to me a few times and I refused to answer him,” Warner said. “That was a long time ago. I have not seen the report and I am not even remotely interested.”

Asked if he deceived Concacaf or Fifa into thinking it owned the Centre of Excellence, Warner said, “I am totally denying that. Fifa is a worldwide organisation with billions and billions of dollars and tonnes of lawyers from all over the world. Poor humble me, from Rio Claro, could deceive FIFA? If I did that I would have to be exceptionally good. I should be the head of the class.”

Warner continued, “At the end of the day there is a thing called overkill and at some point in time you realise that this is really overkill with Jack Warner, Concacaf and FIFA.”

Asked if he had siphoned US $26 million through Centre of Excellence payments, Warner said, “I repeat, there is no basis for that either. But if they have that evidence, disclose it to the public. I have nothing to hide. If they have that evidence, tell the public.”

Asked if he received corrupt payments in relation to the facility, Warner said, “I have not. I have been in Concacaf for 20 years as president. I have never signed a Concacaf cheque in my life. I have never opened a Concacaf account in my life. I have never deposited any money from there for 20 years.”

He continued, “I will say to you as I will say in Parliament on Friday, in 20 years I have not signed one cheque. I have not made one Concacaf deposit, I have not signed one Concacaf contract, I have not done one Concacaf transfer for 20 years. And I had the power to do so as a signatory to all of those accounts as president. I never did. I did not. Isn’t that strange?”

Warner criticised the Opposition.

“The more desperate they get is the more dangerous they will behave and I am prepared to fight them head-on. I am not cowed by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley or PNM Senator Fitzgerald Hinds. I will take them head-on. Inside Parliament, outside Parliament. Inside the party, outside the party. I will take them on head on,” Warner said.

In a press release issued last night, Warner said, “Concacaf’s report today is of no concern to me and as far as I am aware it is baseless. If after 20 years of being the president of Concacaf all its Committee could have found is some baseless claim against me involving the Centre of Excellence then I will continue to sleep very soundly at nights.”

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