Minister of Sport Brent Sancho says he is not “too overly worried” about allegations on the Wired868 website that he may have broken the law when his personal US bank account was used to facilitate a CONCACAF payment to Pro League team Central FC while he was Sport Minister.
“It’s much ado about nothing really,” Sancho told the Express yesterday, “That account was opened well before I was Minister.”
Sancho became Minister of Sport on February 2 this year but CONCACAF issued a US$40,000 payment to Central to assist with airfare to the CONCACAF Champions League encounter with Major League Soccer (MLS) team LA Galaxy in the USA in July.
Sancho said he was a director of the club and that though his club had other board members, they weren’t active.
“CONCACAF not knowing any better sent it (the money) to my account. Once I found out about it, I forwarded it onto Central FC, I don’t know what the big deal is about,” the former Soca Warrior said.
Asked why the funds weren’t sent to the club’s account, Sancho said the club didn’t have one at that time
“And I suppose because we were a new club in CONCACAF, they just sent it to the name on record.
Sancho collected Central FC qualifying money while Sport Minister
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)
Sport Minister Brent Sancho could feasibly find himself reported to the Integrity Commission after leaked documentation showed that CONCACAF money due to the Pro League club was diverted into the minister’s personal bank account.
Then Central FC operations manager Kevin Harrison admitted that he directed CONCACAF to wire US$40,000 (TT$253,000) to a United States-based bank account owned by Sancho. Harrison, who is British, also serves as advisor to the Sport Minister and is paid by the Trinidad and Tobago Government.
The CONCACAF payment was supposed to help the “Couva Sharks” with expenses for their trip to Los Angeles where they faced MLS team, LA Galaxy, in the Champions League.
Sancho was appointed as Sport Minister on 2 February 2015 and has repeatedly insisted that he is not involved in Central business due to the obvious conflict of interest.
The Sport Minister declined comment on the payment to his account. However, Harrison tried to clear it up.
Why was CONCACAF directed to send money to Sancho in July, five months after his appointment as Sport Minister?
Harrison suggested that the CONCACAF paperwork happened while Sancho was still Central CEO.
“The only reason I think CONCACAF would have even a record of Brent Sancho,” Harrison told Wired868, “is because we had to apply (for the CONCACAF Champions League) early.”
Wired868 can confirm that Central had not even qualified for the Champions League when Sancho was appointed Sport Minister.
Central only booked its spot in the Champions League on 22 May 2015 after a penalty shoot out win over Haitian club, Don Bosco. And CONCACAF asked qualified teams to send bank details on 28 May 2015.
Why did Harrison not forward the club’s bank details rather than Sancho’s?
“Central didn’t have a US bank account at the time,” said Harrison. “When we filled out all the application forms, the only US account we had access to was Brent’s own. So we put that down for ease of use.”
There is no stipulation that the club needed a US bank account.
More relevantly, Harrison did not explain why Central did not simply open a US account, since CONCACAF gave the Sharks between May 28 and June 12, roughly two weeks, to provide the necessary bank details.
Interestingly, Sancho did not immediately forward the US$40,000 to Central when he received it. Instead, as the Sharks prepared to face Galaxy, other club officials received word that they were due money for their trip to the United States.
Harrison admitted that there was a time lag before Sancho relayed the money to the relevant club officials. In the interim, Central struggled to get visas and tickets in time and the players travelled to Los Angeles in three batches.
They were subsequently thrashed 5-1 by Galaxy.
“We got an enquiry from Central FC (who asked) did you receive money,” said Harrison, “and lo and behold the money was there (in Sancho’s account). I personally got the cheque from Sancho and gave it to someone at the club.
“It was for (around) US$39,000 because there were some charges…
“As far as I am aware, Central FC then opened an account afterwards and directed CONCACAF money to be sent there.
“I have not been involved with Central FC since. They keep me out of the loop.”
Central FC, the reigning Pro League and Caribbean club champion team, is owned and largely funded by SIS directors and, contrary to common belief, Sancho is not a part-owner.
The relevant SIS officials are rumoured to be now keen to relinquish their role with Central and sell the club to any interested buyer. However, Wired868 could not confirm this potential change in direction and Harrison said he was unaware of any such moves.
Mix-up caused funds to go to Sancho...
‘Storm in a tea cup’
By Rhondor Dowlat (Guardian).
An apparent mix-up and/or misunderstanding between Concacaf and the Central Football Club (CFC) caused the regional governing body for football to deposit some US$39,000 into the personal US account of Sport Minister Brent Sancho.
Contacted on the issue yesterday, after it was raised by People’s National Movement (PNM) leader Dr Keith Rowley during a meeting in Point Fortin on Wednesday, Sancho, not wanting to comment much but leaving it up to his former club to clear the air, told the T&T Guardian the funds went into his account by error.
Sancho’s special adviser in the Ministry of Sport, Kevin Harrison, who also worked with him while the two were at Central FC, described it as “a storm in a teacup.” He said when Sancho realised the funds were transferred to his account, he (Sancho) immediately went to the bank and had a cheque made out for US$39,000 to be paid to CFC.
“Mr Sancho did nothing wrong. There was an error and he immediately rectified it,” Harrison said.
In a release late yesterday, CFC said due to changes in management and administration staff at the end of last season, club staff were under pressure to meet various Concacaf Champions League deadlines, one of which was to submit the club’s bank details to receive Concacaf funds.
“As the funds to be received from Concacaf were to be despatched as US dollars and CFC would be travelling to Los Angeles and Guatemala, it was decided that a US dollar account would be financially beneficial.
“However, CFC had not opened the required US dollar account in time to adhere to the required Concacaf deadline,” the release said.
Harrison explained that the club decided that info of Sancho’s account provided in December to the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) would be submitted to Concacaf and the CFC’s own bank account details would be submitted later.
In an email on July 27, 2015, which was obtained by the T&T Guardian, CFC notified Concacaf that they would be submitting new bank details the next day (July 28, 2015). The club’s new US dollar bank account details were sent via email on July 28 to Concacaf. This email was prepared by club manager (administration) Jamie Aleong-Charles. Confirmation was made by Gino Rullo, Concacaf’s manager of club competitions.
“During this busy period for Concacaf, the payment instructions were not altered and Concacaf despatched the funds to Sancho’s account in error. CFC were expecting to receive funds into their account and it was several days before they realised that the funds were deposited into Sancho’s account.
“Sancho immediately arranged to withdraw these funds and US$39,000 was paid by cheque to CFC,” the CFC release said.
“Because this transaction would need to be declared, Sancho had to determine the exact charges to be deducted before returning any balance to the club. Contrary to what was being reported, this transfer of funds did not hamper CFC’s preparations in any way. Further, there was an ongoing dialogue throughout this period so that all parties were aware of the situation.”
CFC said it also believed highlighting the issue was nothing less than “malicious gossip designed to tarnish the reputation of CFC and Minister of Sport Brent Sancho.”