(Trinidad Guardian) In a small legal victory for former FIFA Vice-President Jack Warner, a local judge has refused the United States government permission to join the judicial review lawsuit brought by Warner challenging Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi’s decision to sign off on an extradition request from the Justice Department.
Barack Obama’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch is seeking to have him extradited to face charges in the ongoing FIFA bribery scandal.
Delivering an oral decision in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday afternoon, Justice James Aboud dismissed the US’s application to join the judicial review lawsuit.
While Aboud ruled that the US had an interest in the outcome of the case before him, he said that its interest would be adequately dealt with by the Office of the Attorney General.
“Its position as an affected party is not compromised by its exclusion because its interest and the AG’s appear to be identical,” Aboud said.
He also ruled that the US would not “bring anything to the table” in the case as it admitted that it only wished to make legal submissions in the case.
“The applicant will not be bringing to court any different perspective or new evidence as to make its contribution useful,” Aboud said.
As part of his ruling Aboud ordered the US to pay Warner’s legal costs for defending its failed application.
Speaking briefly with reporters after leaving the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, Warner said he was happy with the decision, which he described as a “victory for the sovereignty of T&T”.
“Ironically the US has to pay me. It’s long overdue,” Warner said.
Questions over procedure adopted AG’s office
Warner, in his claim, is questioning the procedure adopted by the Office of the Attorney General in signing off on the US’s request for his extradition made in May, last year, at the end of the US Department of Justice’s investigation into FIFA. He is facing fraud and money-laundering charges related to his two decades as a senior official of world football’s governing body.
Earlier this year, Aboud granted Warner a stay of his ongoing extradition proceedings currently before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar, which will expire after Aboud decides on the legality and constitutionality of his extradition.
Warner’s attorneys are alleging that this country’s extradition treaty with the US contradicts the Extradition (Commonwealth and Foreign Territories) Act. They are claiming that, in passing the act, Parliament afforded citizens certain protections which are ignored by the international treaty.
He is also complaining that Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi failed to give his attorneys a fair opportunity to make representations to him before he signed off on the Authority to Proceed, which was required to kick off the proceedings before Ayers-Caesar.
Shortly after taking over the case from his predecessor Garvin Nicholas in September, last year, Al-Rawi extended the option to Warner. However, his attorneys allegedly refused as they said it was made a day before Al-Rawi was required to approve the extradition.
Warner is also being represented by Fyard Hosein, SC, Nyree Alfonso, Rishi Dass and Anil Maraj, while the State is being represented by Douglas Mendes, SC, and Michael Quamina. Vanessa Gopaul and Theresa Hadad represented the US.
The US Justice Department is making a legal bid to have a say on a preliminary aspect of its case, in which it seeks to extradite Warner to face charges, in a US court, on alleged corruption in FIFA. That is the wider case. The preliminary matter is Warner’s challenging the standing of the T&T Attorney General to assent to the extradition request. The Justice Department said it has a vested interest in any issue related Warner’s extradition. The judge saw no need for the US authorities to get involved at this point. It does not necessarily signify that Warner will win his fight against extradition. If Warner loses this challenge, the extradition proceedings will restart.
The US now has two weeks to decide if it wants to appeal Aboud’s decision. Warner’s lawsuit continues on July 13 when attorneys will present submissions on a procedural application for Warner to call several foreign witnesses to testify in the case. A date yet to be set for the trial.