(CMC) – Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says he is not surprised at the latest developments surrounding former FIFA vice president, Austin Jack Warner, noting he had strenuously denounced Warner’s appointment to the Trinidad and Tobago Cabinet in 2010.
“I took objection to Jack Warner being appointed to the Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago and the reason being, not that I had a problem with people… electing who they wanted to elect who they want to elect to serve them you know, but I made the point that when you’re talking about a Cabinet member, you cannot have a gentleman who had that kind of reputation and worse, a job at FIFA and I told this country that his involvement at FIFA could and would embarrass Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley said.
Last Thursday, a defiant Warner said he would continue to fight his extradition to the United States to answer corruption charges, even after London’s Privy Council ruled that the extradition proceedings here are not unlawful.
The former football administrator, businessman and politician also defended the decision by FIFA to give preference to South Africa, Russia and Qatar to host World Cup Finals. The award of the 2018 World Cup Final to Russia was among the issues at the centre of corruption allegations against the 79-year-old Warner who is facing 12 charges of wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering.
The Privy Council, Trinidad and Tobago’s highest court of appeal, dismissed Warner’s lawyers’ contention that the extradition proceedings in the magistrate’s court here were unlawful, thus paving the way for the matter to resume.
Warner, who also served as CONCACAF president, is one of 14 people charged in connection with what US prosecutors said was a 24-year scheme that was designed to “enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer”.
The US Department of Justice claims that from as far back as 1990, Warner leveraged his influence and exploited his official positions for personal gain. He is accused of receiving five million US dollars in bribes to vote for Russia to host the 2018 World Cup.
Prime Minister Rowley, addressing the Women’s League of the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) in San Fernando, south west of here on Sunday, told the audience that when he was appointed Opposition Leader following the 2010 general election that brought the People’s Partnership government to office headed by Kamla Persad Bissessar, his first order of business was to oppose the selection of Warner into the cabinet.
“I need not say anymore. I need not say anymore. But I will tell you one thing, he is confident that he has the love and affection of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. I’m glad for him.
“I am glad for him. I am glad you don’t put your leaders into that situation to get that type of love. But Kamla Persad Bissessar elevated him to acting Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.
“So today when all the movies are being made about international crookery, Trinidad and Tobago features prominently because we were put out there among them. They don’t like it when we talk about it. But I am saying we have to confront our own demons,” Rowley said.
Attorney General Reginald Armour has already said that the law should be allowed to take its course now that the Privy Council, the country’s highest court of appeal, has dismissed Warner’s appeal against his extradition to the United States to face corruption charges.
“As Attorney General, I am able to assure the citizenry of this Republic that in Trinidad and Tobago the rule of law and due process are alive and well and, the law must now be allowed to take its course,” Armour said.