Warner owns centre
PORT OF SPAIN — For over a decade, football power broker Jack Austin Warner hid a US$22.5 million asset in plain sight on the balance sheet of football’s ruling body for North and Central America and the Caribbean of which he was president.
And for just as long, Warner was collecting hundreds of thousands of US dollars in member services and building maintenance fees from Concacaf for an asset – the Dr. Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence – that many in FIFA, football’s world governing body, and Concacaf considered to be the crown jewel of the regional football federation.
The only wrinkle in this long standing arrangement between the football confederation and its ex-president of two decades is ownership of the asset.
Persons familiar with the situation told the Express that FIFA and Concacaf were duped by its ex-top official Warner into thinking that the regional football body owned the sprawling 16.9 acre sporting complex complete with artificial turf ground and 33-room hotel.
Land owned by Warner
The land on which the US$22.5 million FIFA-Concacaf built and paid-for facility sits on, is owned by Jack Warner and two of his private corporations, CCAM and Co Ltd and Renraw Investments Ltd. The Warner deception was discovered last June by Cayman banker and new Concacaf president Jeffrey Webb who retained the global law firm of Sidley Austin LLP and audit and consulting firm BDO to conduct a forensic audit into Concacaf’s finances.
At a conference last September, Webb said the Confederation’s executive committee had agreed to give investigators more time.
“This audit is a massive undertaking that will set our financial house straight and ensure that Concacaf’s operations are executed in a responsible and ethical manner,” he said.
Chairman of Concacaf’s Integrity Committee, Sir David Simmons, a former chief justice of Barbados, will reveal the findings of the forensic audit first to delegates of the Confederation’s annual congress in Panama City tomorrow and then to the international media on Friday.
The question of whether the Confederation should go after its former boss in relation to the loss of a valuable asset – the Centre of Excellence – will be put to the floor for a vote tomorrow, according to Concacaf insiders.
Also headed for discussion is whether the Confederation should extend its forensic investigation to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation of which Warner was special adviser up until 2011, said one source.
The annual congress will also deliberate on whether the Caribbean Football Union of which Warner was also president should be added to the laundry list of Warner-associated football bodies to be investigated. Reuters had reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigations and US tax authorities are already on the CFU case.
Lack of proper governance
How was Warner able to dupe FIFA and the Confederation on the ownership of a US$22.5 million asset for so long? Insiders say the answer lies with the lack of a proper governance structure inside the Warner-controlled Concacaf and the symbiotic relationship between Warner and former close pal turned whistle blower and general secretary of the Confederation, Chuck Blazer.
Financial records and other Concacaf documents obtained by this newspaper show that the Centre of Excellence was listed as an asset on Concacaf’s books by the Warner-hired auditor, Kenny Rampersad of 3A Queen’s Park West, Port of Spain.
In the audited financial statements for 2010, presented at the May 2011 congress in Miami Beach, Rampersad lists the Centre of Excellence as a fixed asset on the Confederation’s balance sheet. His note to the account, however, Note 5 describes the asset as “freehold property”, which implies ownership of both land and building. Property record searches show that Warner has legal title to the three parcels of land on which the buildings known as the Centre of Excellence sits. (Express)