PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – A High Court judge has ordered former Trinidad and Tobago government minister Jack Warner to repay (TT) $1.5 million to the owner of a local company which was used to finance the 2007 campaign of the Opposition United National Congress (UNC).
The funds, organized by businessman and UNC financier, Krishna Lalla, were paid to Warner by the technology company, Real Time Systems Ltd, over a period of two months.
Lalla, who also owned Super Industrial Services Ltd (SIS), told the court that Warner had promised to repay him by February 2008 as he was expected to receive US$10 million from the International Football Federation (FIFA), of which he was then vice president.
However, Warner, who served at one time as national security minister in the UNC-led People’s Partnership government between 2010-15, argued in court that the money was not loaned to him but was donated by Lalla for the financing of the UNC 2007 general election campaign.
In delivering his judgement last week, Justice Frank Seepersad called for proper regulatory framework for election campaign financing, noting that in a developing democracy, courts should not have to decide whether sums of money received were spoils of campaign financing.
“The veil of secrecy and anonymity must be removed and there should be full disclosure of financial contributors, with caps placed on the amounts which can be received by a political party from individuals, companies or institutions.”
Justice Seepersad said for far too long election campaign financing has played a central and dominant role in politics. He said taxpayers’ money and resources do not belong to any political party and cannot be used to court a party’s financiers. The judge also ordered that Warner pay interests and costs.