Wed, May

United TTFA: Fifa and normalisation committee trying to cover up DJW’s ‘crimes’, govt must step in.

“[…] In all of this malfeasance, Fifa was either guilty of gross ignorance of its own regulations and, therefore, gross mismanagement; or it was guilty of gross negligence and complicity in the actions of David John-Williams.

“In any event, United TTFA concluded from the outset that Fifa imposed its normalisation committee to prevent the forensic investigation that had been ordered by the TTFA Board, and to cover up all of John-Williams’ financial shenanigans…”

In the following release, United TTFA members  William Wallace (TTFA president), Clynt Taylor (TTFA 1st vice-president), Susan Joseph-Warrick (TTFA 2nd vice-president), Joseph Sam Phillip (TTFA 3rd vice-president), Anthony Harford (Northern FA president) and Keith Look Loy (TT Super League president) respond to Mark Bassant’s investigative feature on the stewardship of former football president David John-Williams and the alleged complicity of Fifa and its normalisation committee:

The unexpected, grave and shocking revelations of Mark Bassant’s investigative report, ‘TTFA’s Secret Panama Trail’, have not only confirmed what was already known by United TTFA and others, but have added new facts and allegations to the long file of financial mismanagement and malfeasance of the David John-Williams administration.

No one knew the full extent of the financial disaster provoked by the former president’s actions, but this was the central issue in TTFA under John-Williams. Ultimately, United TTFA, and others, acted on 24 November 2019 to remove the former president and his enablers from power, despite Fifa president Gianni Infantino’s open support for John-Williams.

The necessary assessment of TTFA finances in the immediate aftermath of our election victory brought facts to light that some wished to remain under cover of darkness. The revelation of these facts, some of them financial crimes under Trinidad and Tobago law, provoked an oppressive reaction by FIFA—the imposition of a so called normalisation committee on 17 March 2020.

On several occasions prior to the November 2019 election, United TTFA and TTFA Board members brought dubious practices in TTFA’s general financial management—and in the management of the Home of Football project, in particular—to the attention of FIFA’s head official for Africa and the Caribbean and project supervisor, Veron Mosengo-Omba, during his visits to Couva.

Mr Mosengo-Omba’s stock response was: ‘That is internal TTFA business. Fifa is satisfied’.

FIFA ‘was satisfied’ despite the fact that it conducts an annual audit of TTFA finances and despite the glaring contravention of its project management regulations. In all of this malfeasance, Fifa was either guilty of gross ignorance of its own regulations and, therefore, gross mismanagement; or it was guilty of gross negligence and complicity in the actions of David John-Williams.

In any event, United TTFA concluded from the outset that Fifa imposed its normalisation committee to prevent the forensic investigation that had been ordered by the TTFA Board, and to cover up all of John-Williams’ financial shenanigans.

In April, Fifa’s normalisation committee chairman, Robert Hadad, made it amply clear to the media he was ‘not here to play a blame game’—that is, to examine TTFA’s immediate past under John-Williams.

Since that time TTFA’s general secretary, Ramesh Ramdhan has stated that: 1) Hadad allegedly advised him that he knew he had been appointed to shield John-Williams; and 2) John-Williams is allegedly a key Hadad adviser who speaks with Hadad regularly.

During the 27 August 2020 meeting of selected TTFA members, hosted by the Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe, John-Williams featured and supported the normalisation committee. In that meeting Hadad claimed John-Williams ‘did nothing wrong’ during his tenure, and further, that one United TTFA member was ‘lying on him’.

In Bassant’s film national football icon and ESPN commentator Shaka Hislop described Hadad’s behaviour as a ‘dereliction of duty’.

United TTFA has long described the normalisation committee as illegal. That is the basis of our court case against FIFA.

However, given the long standing record of complaints by TTFA Board members against John-Williams’ financial mismanagement and malfeasance, and given Bassant’s film, Hadad’s stout defence of John-Williams clearly demonstrates the lack of independent judgment, integrity and credibility one would rightfully expect from a Fifa representative and from Fifa itself.

United TTFA refuses to bow to Fifa and its discredited normalisation committee in its effort to remove the Wallace administration, which is actually victim of John-Williams’ actions.

United TTFA refuses to allow FIFA to ‘normalise’ what the entire country saw laid bare by Bassant’s documentary.

United TTFA refuses to allow FIFA to continue turning a blind eye to the victimisation of our country’s youth and its football development.

‘TTFA’s Secret Panama Trail’ has amply demonstrated that Fifa has no moral authority to remove the Wallace  administration, and that Fifa has many questions to answer itself.

In light of what is now in the public record regarding the past administration, the normalisation committee’s public support for John-Williams, and John-Williams’ alleged key role as advisor to said committee, United TTFA now calls for the following:

1. The chairman of the normalisation committee must resign immediately;

2. Fifa must remove the normalisation committee and must recognise the elected TTFA officers;

3. Fifa must begin talks with said officers to devise a joint approach to existing issues;

4. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe should approach Fifa in support of TTFA in this initiative;

5. The appropriate state authorities should access and examine Bassant’s documentary file on the Home of Football project.

These measures would immediately set the stage for resolution of all issues and facilitate the stabilisation and progress of Trinidad and Tobago football.

Finally, we call on our Caribbean brothers and  sisters to unite in our support in this our gravest hour. It is the Caribbean that brought leadership change to Fifa once before. And it is the united Caribbean that can make Fifa a more humane organisation—one that is guided by global democracy, global equality, and global justice.


Media Monitor: CNC’s Bassant to the rescue again; T&T football family sees big picture at last.
By Earl Best (Wired868).

Wired868’s Lasana Liburd is far and away the best football reporter in Trinidad and Tobago, arguably in the West Indies. So if any proof were needed that the current protracted TTFA vs FIFA issue is not about football, it came on CNC3 last night.

I am sure Liburd and Wired provided relevant footballing information but the television documentary was the work of investigative reporter Mark Bassant.'

Bassant has dared go where Liburd has not ventured precisely because the TV reporter is emphatically not in the football business. That’s more than can be said, the documentary makes clear, of former TTFA president David John-Williams.

For him, football is business, lucrative business.

Full disclosure: I am more than half-ready to deliver my verdict as juror in the David John-Williams case.

No lawyer—not even close—I am, however, very clear on the notion of presumption of innocence, both its legal underpinnings and its value in a court of law. I have found, though, that it has less value in the court of public opinion, which is where Bassant last night prosecuted the case.

I know to the last nuance the difference between an allegation and justiciable evidence, a charge and a conviction, a mere response, responsible or otherwise, and a real refutation. I have been, after all, in the business of teaching language all my adult life.

For more than ten of those adult years, I was a sports editor. That was back in the days when Jack Warner was first the TTFA’s Voice of One and then a big sawatee in Fifa. Ergo, I had plenty bullshit to cut through.

Bassant’s essential story is that DJW has been collecting TTFA money from Fifa, some of it in advance of its scheduled disbursement date. But he has been doing little of what the funds are specifically allocated to do: paying staff and creditors and servicing operational costs as well as building the Home of Football. Coaches, officials, players, contractors and service providers went continuously unpaid and authentic TTFA day-to-day needs were unmet. The House of Football is still unfinished.

And all the while, DJW played his credit cards very close to his chest.

“What do you prefer,” Bassant told us the then president asked rhetorically, “financial stability or wins on the field.”

“Neither came,” the investigator laconically commented.

However, as the organisation’s debts mounted, DJW was accumulating personal wealth—over a million US dollars—in a personal bank account in Panama, which it seems, was fraudulently set up using defunct, off-the-shelf companies.

As prosecutor, Bassant does an excellent job. The sheer wealth of information provided is quite impressive as is the attention to detail. An alert juror has no difficulty at all connecting the dots of dates, email and other addresses, flight information, customs documents, invoices, bank information and identification of FIFA connections, legitimate and shady. Not forgetting the concrete reality of the Home of Football.

Bassant tells the jury that: ‘Article 8D of Fifa’s Forward Development Programme regulations (…) states that associations may only use bonafide accounts to transact project business, (but) materials were paid for via RBC and Republic Bank accounts, when all three of TTFA’s accounts are at First Citizens’.

Fifa, he points out, deposited its funding into those First Citizens accounts.

He calls our attention to the suspicious purchase of two monomix machines. These machines were not on the customs form for the containers in which they were supposed to be but they ‘bizarrely appeared on the construction site of the Home of Football later on’, disappearing again in November 2019.

Contacted, the prosecutor tells us, a named official of ECOTEC, the supplier identified on the customs form, at first says that they do not sell that product. He would later change his tune. Too late!

Bassant cuts off John-Williams’ access to the knee-jerk defence of many an accused person: how can you be sure that it was me?

Dare he maintain that there are two people in the world, he asks, called David Apullnaris John-Williams? The chances are infinitesimal.

Bassant repeatedly opted for running footage of himself accompanying DJW on the golf course. I feel certain the ‘live’ footage moves the jury closer to making their minds up. The ex-president tries hard to make us believe he has only contempt for Bassant’s absurd investigation. But the sneer on his face, his embarrassed smile—if smile it can accurately be called—his equally embarrassed silences and his generally traitorous body language together convey an entirely different message.

But would mere commentary over more carefully selected images interspersed with well-placed sound-bites not have been more effective?

Maybe. Maybe not. Not in doubt is the verdict which has been reached in the court of public opinion. Already social media voices are calling for government intervention. One commentator has gone so far as to call for the resignation of the minister of sport, whom he sees as culpable since she publicly blamed the duly elected president, William Wallace.

My mind, though, remains only half open. I wait to hear the defence’s case but I’m convinced they have it all to do.

I see three real options: (1) A ‘plea deal’ (2) Turning State’s witness or (3) A win on a technicality.

In a corrupt country, of course, there is always a fourth. There is nothing Bassant can do about that.

I thought he did a splendid job on the sea bridge investigation in 2017. But there was no Covid-19 then, no closed borders.…

In November 1989, I was gutted when Warner off the field and Everald ‘Gally’ Cummings on its edge combined to cut the national World Cup qualification effort off at the knees.

Now, almost three decades later, even if we are not in a position to stop the recurrence, it looks to me as if we are certainly well placed to bring perpetrators to justice.

Thanks to Mark Bassant’s excellent, top-drawer, investigative work.