FIFA Corruption Scandals: The United States v Austin Jack Warner-The Issue of Extradition
By Stefan Fabien, Attorney-at-Law, Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago
In May 2015, Jack Warner, together with other FIFA Officials and Corporate Executives, was indicted in a US Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, for several financial crimes, arising during his time as Vice-President of FIFA.
In July 2015, the US Department of Justice (US) made a request to the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago (AG) for his extradition to the United States, to stand trial for these offences.
In September 2015, the AG issued an Authority to Proceed (ATP) requiring the Chief Magistrate of Trinidad and Tobago to proceed with the case in accordance with the provisions of the relevant Extradition Act. Committal proceedings then followed before the Chief Magistrate, who either determines that there is sufficient evidence to grant the extradition request, or, conversely, may discharge the accused for lack of such evidence. The US is also permitted to apply to the Trinidad and Tobago High Court to review the order of the Chief Magistrate, in the case that the accused is discharged, and may also apply to the Trinidad and Tobago Court of Appeal, if dissatisfied with the review conducted by the High Court.
In February 2016, Warner applied for Judicial Review of the decision of the AG to issue the ATP. More specifically, he is seeking a declaration that the ATP is void, as it is ultra vires the Extradition Act; that there was a breach of natural justice as he was denied a fair hearing by the AG before he made the decision to issue the ATP; and that a special arrangement was made between the AG and the US in relation to his extradition, which offends the Act and so voids the ATP.
Extradition proceedings have, therefore, been stayed before the Chief Magistrate, pending the determination of the Judicial Review application. If the application is successful, the extradition proceedings before the Chief Magistrate will be nullified and Warner will be discharged.
Considering this possibility, in March 2016, the US sought permission before the High Court to be heard and to make submissions throughout the Judicial Review proceedings. The Judge held, in dismissing the application, that the US did not have a sufficient interest, within the meaning of the applicable Civil Proceedings Rules.
On appeal, the Court of Appeal, whilst ruling that the Judge in the lower Court erred in concluding that the US did not have a sufficient interest, looked at the matter afresh and held that the question, which should be asked, is what useful contribution the US could make to the resolution of the claim? The Court of Appeal held, in dismissing the appeal, that the US failed to “put before the Court sufficient material to show that on a balance of probabilities it can make a useful contribution if allowed to be heard.”
The matter was remitted to the High Court Judge, who subsequently heard submissions from the AG’s office and Warner’s Attorneys in respect of the Judicial Review application and has set a date of 31 July 2017 to render his decision.
It is noteworthy that, in May of this year, Costas Takkas, the former attaché to the CONCACAF President, Jeffrey Webb, and General Secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA), pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering conspiracy in respect of millions of dollars in cash inducements to Webb.
Webb himself pleaded guilty, in November 2015, to seven counts of racketeering, money laundering conspiracy and wire transfer conspiracy and faces sentencing on 11 July 2017 - a date that has been pushed back for a fourth time.
July 2017, therefore, is set to be a crucial month for both former CONCACAF Presidents and FIFA Vice Presidents, albeit from two different stages of the federal indictment being doggedly pursued by the US Department of Justice, which had the temerity to bring such cross jurisdictional proceedings.
Watch this space for further developments!