26 Jul 2012
- Written by T&T Newsday
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JACK WARNER’S former secretary at the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), Angenie Kanhai, changed her story in a way that incriminated ousted FIFA presidential candidate Mohammed Bin Hammam two days before she signed a contract for a plum FIFA job in February, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) revealed this week.
In its detailed 56-page written ruling quashing Bin Hammam’s FIFA ban for bribery, the court expressed “concern” over the fact that both Warner and Kanhai changed their stories in relation to the source of cash-filled envelopes offered to CFU officials at the Hyatt Regency in the build-up to the 2011 FIFA presidential elections.
The changes appeared to occur after the offer of the envelopes – which each contained US$40,000 – was reported to FIFA and went public. “The change in Mr Warner’s account, as well as the small but very significant addition that was made by Ms Kanhai in her second statement, raise concerns for the panel,” the court said in its arbitration ruling, which was first reported on exclusively in yesterday’s Newsday.
The panel noted Kanhai made two statements: one on July 15, 2011, after the scandal first broke out and then another statement on February 27, 2012, while proceedings were ongoing before the CAS. The first statement did not implicate Bin Hammam. But the second statement did.
In the first statement, Kanhai said, “On May 10, 2011 Mr Warner advised me that he had gifts, which were to be distributed to the delegates.” However, in her second statement, Kanhai added a telling detail, “Mr Warner advised me that gifts were to be distributed to the delegates....he told me that the gifts were token gifts from Mr Bin Hammam.”
“The panel considers Ms. Kanhai’s testimony on this point to be relevant, because her second statement appears to be the only place in the record of evidence that Mr. Warner told anyone on May 10 (as opposed to May 11) that Mr Bin Hammam was the source of the gifts,” the CAS said. It noted that by the time of the second statement, Kanhai was out of a job having stepped down as CFU general secretary in December 2011.
“The panel is bound to observe that Ms. Kanhai’s second statement was made on February 27, 2012, at a time when she was unemployed, having resigned from the CFU in December 2011, and that two days after signing this second statement, on March 1, she signed a contract of employment with FIFA, the respondent in these proceedings,” the court revealed.
It continued, “It may be that the timing is entirely coincidental, but given the significance of the addition to the statement and her failure to provide a compelling – or any real – explanation for it, the panel is bound to treat the evidence with some degree of caution.”
“If Ms Kanhai’s second statement is removed from the equation, there is no evidence before the panel to show that Mr. Warner mentioned the connection between the gifts and Mr Bin Hammam until the morning of May 11.”
Newsday understands that Kanhai, 29, now holds the post of development officer at the FIFA Development Office Northwest Caribbean (USA). The office is located at Miami Beach. Contacted yesterday, Kanhai told Newsday she was “in-transit” and would issue a full statement later. However she added, “as a preliminary response, I would like to clarify that at no point did I change my testimony. The records of both the FIFA Ethics Committee and CAS will support such.” She also said her elevation to FIFA was not related.
“My start as development officer has no connection with the CAS appeal,” she said.
Warner quit his post as a FIFA vice-president as well as his post of president of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) in June last year. During his tenure (1983 to 2011), Kanhai was CFU general secretary. In testimony before the Switzerland-based CAS, Kanhai said Warner was often referred to as “the boss”.
According to evidence before the CAS by CFU first vice-president Cheney Joseph said another CFU official Jason Sylvester told CFU officials who were presented with envelopes stuffed with cash on May 10, 2011, at the Hyatt that the money came from “the boss”.
“Another witness, Mr. Cheney, stated during the hearing that, when he was offered the gift, Mr Sylvester told him that the gift came from ‘the boss’, who at the time was Mr Warner.,” the panel noted. “During the hearing, Ms Kanhai confirmed that ‘the boss’ would generally be understood to refer to Mr Warner.”
The CAS said Kanhai could not account for why she changed her story on the eve of signing on to a new FIFA job.
“She was asked by the panel to explain why she had failed to mention to the CFU executive in her note of July 15, 2011, that Mr Bin Hammam was the source of the gifts, despite the fact that the Note was prepared shortly after the date in question, but had included that information in her second statement which was made much later in time,” the CAS said. “She was unable to give a satisfactory explanation, eventually stating: ‘I didn’t want to, I didn’t remember, I really don’t know, July 15th was quite a long time ago.’”
According to the ruling, Kanhai admitted before the CAS that there was a change in her statements. “When she was then asked ‘So what changed between July and February to cause you to take a different view?’, she replied ‘Nothing changed.’ When pushed, she did then say: ‘I accept that there is a change, yes, because there is obviously a change.’”
On balance, the panel rejected Kanhai’s claim that Warner told her the money came from Bin Hammam.
“Having regard to the totality of the record before it, the panel concludes to its comfortable satisfaction that the evidence shows that Mr. Warner did not tell anyone that the money had come from Mr. Bin Hammam before he addressed delegates on the morning of May 11,” it found. “The evidence indicates that until that time his statements indicated that the gifts were from the CFU.”
Warner’s evidence, too, was thrown out by the CAS because he gave contradictory evidence. The court found that he was an “unreliable witness” with a “detached relationship with the truth”. As the bulk of the case against Bin Hammam rested on statements from Warner, the court said it could not uphold the FIFA ban against Bin Hammam.
At the same time, the panel noted that FIFA dropped charges against Warner in circumstances where it was not necessary to do so, just months before Warner provided FIFA with evidence against Bin Hammam. The CAS noted that while it was likely Bin Hammam and Warner were in collaboration, the possibility that Bin Hammam did not know about Warner’s cash gifts could not be excluded.