Kingston, Jamaica — Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday she received no money from Jack Warner to fund either her own or the United National Congress (UNC) election campaigns.
Warner, a former government minister and UNC chairman, was one of 14 people indicted by the United States government in connection with allegations of bribery, money laundering, corruption and wire fraud conspiracy arising out of investigations conducted by US authorities.
The offences were alleged to have taken place both in the United States and Trinidad and Tobago between 1990 and 2011 while Warner held the position of FIFA vice-president.
Since 2007, Warner has held senior portfolios both in the UNC and the Government until his fallout from the Government and the formation of his own Independent Liberal Party (ILP) in 2013.
In the January 2010 UNC internal election, Warner endorsed Persad-Bissessar as UNC leader after she defeated former prime minister and party leader Basdeo Panday. Persad-Bissessar then went on to be elected as T&T’s first woman Prime Minister on May 24, 2010, leading the People’s Partnership coalition.
Following the opening of the new state-of-the-art Maloney Police Station yesterday, Persad-Bissessar was questioned on whether Warner’s money was used in the election campaigning and the concerns that may arise out of this. Persad-Bissessar said she received no money from Warner either for the UNC internal election, the May 2010 general election, or the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election in 2013.
“I received no financing from Mr Warner, he may have financed Mr Warner’s own campaign in 2010 but as leader of the Partnership and leader of the UNC, I received no financing whatsoever from Mr Warner, either prior to the internal elections in 2010, my party’s internal elections and thereafter into the general election,” she said.
On Wednesday, Warner surrendered to the Fraud Squad in Port of Spain, following which he appeared before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar where 12 charges were read.
Warner was granted bail of $2.5 million, but spent the night at the infirmary of the Port of Spain Prison as his bail documents were not in order.
What about Ish, Steve?
Yesterday, social media and radio shows were bombarded with people commenting on the issue, with many saying they hope businessmen Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson would be extradited if Warner were to be handed over to US authorities.
Galbaransingh and Ferguson are wanted in the US on a series of charges arising out of the Piarco Airport project.
Galbaransingh faces 13 charges, among them wire fraud, conspiracy to launder money and engaging in unlawful transactions, while Ferguson faces a total of 82 charges, which include wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money.
The offences are alleged to have occurred in the US, T&T, the Bahamas and elsewhere between September 1, 1996 and December 31, 2005.
In 2011, Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh ruled that Galbaransingh and Ferguson should not be extradited to the US as this would be “unjust, oppressive and unlawful”.
Boodoosingh said this country was the correct forum to try the businessmen and, as such, he was quashing the October 9, 2010 decision of former attorney general Anand Ramlogan to sign the order of extradition for both men.
The Prime Minister said yesterday she has seen some of the comments comparing Warner’s case to that of Galbaransingh and Ferguson.
“I’ve seen some of those comments and I think they are not justified…the situations are very different and they are very similar, the process is the same, which is to say the request is made from the Government of the United States to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for the provisional arrest and for extradition.
“That provisional request is then taken before a magistrate, which was done yesterday, for the magistrate to have issued a local warrant for the arrest of the person and thereafter fix a date for the hearing of the extradition proceedings.”
She said in both cases the process is the same in that the extradition requests were signed by the Attorney General and then the matter went to court, thus far this is proceeding along the same position.
“I am told in that (Galbaransingh and Ferguson) matter, the State attorneys had objected to bail and those persons spent, I don’t know, months in jail before the matter was finally determined in the courts,” she said.
She said in Warner’s case, the Government did not object to bail and it was granted. She noted there was a problem with Warner’s bail documents, but he was granted bail.
Persad – Bissessar further pointed out that in the Galbaransingh and Ferguson case there were local proceedings against them in the criminal courts of this country.
She noted that when the men applied for leave to apply for judicial review, the High Court refused and it went to the Court of Appeal, which then overturned the ruling of the High Court and the leave for judicial review was granted.
“There are no local proceedings in any criminal court in Trinidad and Tobago with respect to the charges of racketeering, wire transfers and fraud that are being alleged at this point in time (in Warner’s case),” said Persad – Bissessar.
Asked whether she has put off calling the election date as she knew that all this controversy would be happening with Warner, Persad -Bissessar reiterated that she intends to call the election date when it is constitutionally due.
She pointed out that yesterday marked exactly five years since she appointed her first Cabinet.
The Prime Minister said she intends to serve her full five-year parliamentary term and therefore the general election date will be announced next month when the Parliament is dissolved.