Oh, to be Jack Warner.
Must be wonderful being fawned over by underlings, fanned by tropical breezes, knowing that in Trinidad, his island home, he’s practically a king.
Who dares take on Teflon Jack? Who would be so foolish?
Well, there is one man.
The Minister of Works and Infrastructure of the Caribbean nation of Trinidad & Tobago, a former FIFA executive committee member, stand-in deputy prime minister and president of CONCACAF, has been linked to all sorts of sagas over the years, each of them chronicled by the Caribbean’s answer to Bob Woodward, Lasana Liburd (pictured), an online newspaper journalist and publisher in Trinidad.
Yet Warner goes from strength to strength.
He jumped ship from FIFA before anything could be done about his alleged role in the Port-of-Spain brown envelopes affair in May last year.
That destroyed Mohamed Bin Hammam’s candidacy for the FIFA presidency and threatens to wipe out the Qatari’s entire career in football politics subject to his Court of Arbitration for Sport appeal against being banned for life.
Warner, by contrast, got a pat on the back from FIFA for saving its useless ethics committee the trouble of whipping him with a peacock feather and gave the 69-year-old an annual US$36,000 pension until his 96th birthday.
Now, an internal police investigation into how $1 million in American greenbacks got into the hands of 15 Caribbean Football Union officials at that fateful meeting at the Hyatt Regency – and whether any laws were broken by Warner, who was there – has been told it is going nowhere, Trinidad’s director of public prosecutions lambasting the police for providing “threadbare information and material”.
The police commissioner in Trinidad claims, “On the advice of the [DPP], no further action can be taken in this matter.” The DPP, however, says otherwise: “I actually suggested that the investigation be continued in the context of the Customs Act.”
Not enough information or not enough effort being put into the investigation? It’s Keystone Kops stuff. Farcical. And would be amusing if the whole matter weren’t so serious.
As Liburd writes, “Trinidad & Tobago’s national security bodies revealed a new low this week in terms of organisation, investigative work, communication and, arguably, credibility.”
And there’s more.
According to Liburd, Warner, the subject of the aborted police investigation, has now been appointed to the National Security Council on which the police commissioner is a fellow board member.
Look! Up in the sky! Is that a flying pig?
But Liburd, undeterred, unheralded, ploughs on.
Last week, despite firm denials from Warner himself that he owned CONCACAF’s $22 million Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence, a hideous edifice constructed with FIFA largesse, Liburd produced documents showing companies owned by Warner’s family were mortgagees.
Said Liburd: “Ever since its construction in 1998, the Centre of Excellence has belonged to Warner; the closest CONCACAF has ever got it to its deed was when the Chaguanas West MP needed a guarantor for a mortgage on the property.
“In fact, the facility belongs to the Trinidadian three-times over as the ownership is split between himself and two of his companies, CCAM and Company and Renraw – ‘Warner’ backwards – Investments. Warner’s wife, Maureen, is the only other director at both companies.”
FIFA carries on like it has been in the dark about the whole matter and is making noises about legal action but again, as Liburd points out, former general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen, before he was sacked by the world body in 2002, brought up the Warner family in a bombshell 21-page report that claimed, among other things, FIFA under Blatter had thrown away $500 million because of cronyism and gross mismanagement. Ten years ago!
Don’t ever expect Warner to get tough love from FIFA. Or from the government of Trinidad & Tobago.
Warner, it would appear, has long had them under his spell. But one man will go on defying him, standing up to legal threats and shining a light on his record: Liburd.
Andrew Jennings, another bête noire of Warner’s, might get all the plaudits as football’s foremost fighter for truth, justice and transparency. But fans should be just as appreciative of the work of Liburd. He’s a true ornament to the profession of journalism.
Committed. Resourceful. Fearless.
We all owe him our greatest respect and thanks for doing more than FIFA ever has in the name of “fair play”.
In the end, friend, the truth always wins.
This column was originally published by ESPN STAR Sports. Please check for new columns by me every Thursday at www.espnstar.com. Love to see you there.