By Caribbean News Now contributor
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- The Integrity Commission of Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday formally requested the country’s president, Anthony Carmona, to appoint a tribunal to enquire into allegations of fraud by former government minister Jack Warner.
The Integrity Commission said in a statement that it took note in April 2013 of a report from the Integrity Committee of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Associations of Football (CONCACAF), alleging that Warner committed fraud against CONCACAF and FIFA, in connection with a Centre of Excellence and in respect of financial statements of CONCACAF.
“In the interest of the public, the commission decided to enquire further into these allegations of fraud,” the statement said.
Section 33(a) of the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA) states that the commission:
“May on its own initiative... consider and enquire into any alleged breaches of the act or any allegations of corrupt or dishonest conduct.”
In pursuance thereof, the commission said it has written to Carmona, in accordance with Section 15 of the IPLA, requesting the appointment of a tribunal to enquire further into declarations submitted by Warner.
Section 15 of the IPLA states:
“Where upon the examination referred to in Section 13, the commission is of the opinion that it should enquire further into any declaration so as to ascertain whether there has been a full disclosure, it may advise the president to appoint a tribunal of two or more of its members to conduct an enquiry to verify the contents of the declaration or the statement filed with the commission.”
The earlier report by the CONCACAF Integrity Committee, chaired by former Barbados chief justice Sir David Simmons, alleged that Warner misappropriated funds and committed fraud and had, among other things, deceived “persons and organisations” about his ownership of the Centre of Excellence.
In response to local media, Warner said: “It is passing strange that the issue in the air now is about a drug bust and the Integrity Commission sees it fit to use this as a diversion, no doubt, under instructions, to come up with an investigation in an issue where neither FIFA nor CONCACAF has shown an interest.
“It is a smokescreen. The timing of the commission’s statement is suspicious, but my lawyers and I will deal with it in the fullness of time.”
This is the first time that the Integrity Commission has asked the president to appoint a tribunal and is likely prompted by legal difficulties encountered in an earlier case involving former prime minister Basdeo Panday where the commission was challenged over its failure to advise the president to appoint such a tribunal before referring the matter to the director of public prosecutions when it was not satisfied with the responses given by the subject of an enquiry.