by Andrew Jennings ·
First, the bad news. American and British intelligence agencies have ‘harvested’ the world’s electronic communications. Any and all information moved electronically around our planet is captured by the spooks at the National Security Agency. You think of your emails – who doesn’t. But do you worry about your electronic bank statements and the updates the bank sends when new payments come in?
No, you probably don’t. Sepp Blatter and his FIFA cronies do. Belatedly, they realise that the electronic trail of their bungs and bribes, thieving and contract kickbacks, routed to ‘safe’ banks from the Caribbean to Cyprus, Panama to Luxembourg is being scrutinised, payment by payment, by FBI special agents.
Most worried must be former FIFA vice-president, Trinidad’s Jack Warner. He rose to the top of the FBI investigation list when his oldest son Daryan, 45, was arrested in America several months ago. Daryan – facing a lengthy jail sentence – quickly became a co-operating witness with a massive FBI investigation into FIFA frauds, money laundering and tax evasion.
Daryan organised the offshore accounts hiding his father’s illicit millions. They will now be in the hands of the FBI. Whoever paid bribes to Warner – or any of the FIFA leaders – for favours must be worried. Could this affect Russia and Qatar hosting the World Cups in 2018 and 2022? It’s too early to say.
The FBI have acquired from Daryan Warner the names of banks and individuals to search for in the billions of electronic communications stored at NSA headquarters in Maryland. It’s a massive undertaking. Several more months must pass before they can prepare indictments. Every foreign bank transaction has to be checked and some jurisdictions may not be enthusiastic about co-operating. Football officials in countries that failed to win their bids to host the World Cup are waiting to learn the sources of some payments.
Another worry for Warner – and his old friends at FIFA who are equally implicated – is that US dollars were the preferred currency for much of the thieving and bribing. All dollar payments are cleared through the big banks in New York who must store records, even if they happened abroad. This gives the authorities a massive database of transactions which they can interrogate, to assist their investigations. They can also ask judges to instruct banks to turn over details of a customer’s account if they or any associated person is the subject of an investigation.
Jack Warner was a member of the Trinidad government until April when yet another wave of corruption allegations forced his resignation from parliament. Desperate to win some kind of immunity from extradition Warner is now standing as an independent to try and get back into parliament.
He wanders the mostly rural constituency of Chaguanas West calling on ‘My People’ to support him. This folksy approach, greased with the distribution of millions of his stolen dollars in return for promises of votes and squalid corruption allegations against his rivals, may win him the election on July 29. One of his campaign speakers justified Warner’s stealing, ‘So if he make money from the white man, nothing wrong with that—is compensation!’
A seat back in parliament might help delay, but not prevent extradition to face trial in America. The FBI confirmed to Reuters news agency in March that Daryan is now a ‘rat’ yet Warner denies the Feds are investigating him or Daryan. He refuses to discuss why Daryan is not able to return home to Trinidad.
Anti-corruption activists are trying to cut through Warner’s manic claims and faux rages with a counter- campaign highlighting the FBI investigation and Daryan’s enforced absence from the bosom of his family.
Cheekily, they have painted “Where is Daryan?” . . . “Daryan please come home… Daddy needs your help!” and similar humorous slogans on walls and roads.
Leaflets are handed out in the constituency mocking Jack Warner’s reluctance to travel out of Trinidad, fearing arrest by the FBI. Another shows a padlocked cell and asks, ‘Can your MP represent you from behind bars?’
They point voters to the front page of a local paper that flew to Miami and found Daryan at the family’s $1 million dollar penthouse looking over the sea. The headline ‘Sealed Lips’ said it all. Daryan Warner’s passport will have been confiscated by the US government.
The attempt to clean up Trinidad politics climaxes on Saturday, two days before the by-election. Local businessmen have paid for a business class ticket in Daryan’s name for him to return home. The constituency is predominantly Indian and if Daryan collects his ticket at Miami airport he will be greeted at 7pm at Trinidad’s Piarco airport by a welcoming party of Indian dancers and traditional tassa drummers.
It will make great pictures for the next day’s papers. Especially if Daryan doesn’t make the flight.