Thu, Dec

DJW: ‘I’m a scapegoat…’ Ex-TTFA president continues Bassant rebuttals.

Controversial former Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams offered his second attempt at rebutting CNC3’s ‘TTFA’s Secret Trail to Panama’ investigative report today.

The hour long feature, done by senior investigative journalist Mark Bassant on 10 September, alleged that John-Williams diverted football money to a secret Panamanian bank, and questioned his handling of TTFA finances for its Home of Football project.

Last week, John-Williams pointed out that Bassant got the date wrong for Fifa’s approval of the TTFA’s Home of Football and claimed that the local football body received less of the Fifa Forward Programme money for 2017 than the report suggested.

Today, John-Williams questioned whether a Concacaf loan received by TTFA in 2017 was ‘secret’—as Bassant apparently suggested—and again debated figures in the investigative report. He also insisted that the TTFA paid Panamanian company, Ecotech, from its First Citizens Bank account and not Republic Bank or Royal Bank.

“Fifa did not allot US$2 million in 2017 to the TTFA in funding towards the Home of Football project under Fifa’s Forward Development Programme as insinuated by Mr Bassant,” stated John-Williams. “Under the Fifa Forward Development Programme 1.0 which covered the period 2016-2018, Fifa allocated the sum of US$750,000 per year for special projects which included the Home of Football.”

The Fifa Development Committee, as John-Williams already admitted, approved a figure of US$2.25 million for the TTFA, which would be paid in four ‘milestone payments’—with the last due one month after completion of the Home of Football ‘following receipt of a handover document signed between the construction company and your association without reservations’.

Bassant, in that clip, appeared to average downwards and actually understated the money afforded to the John-Williams-led administration.

John-Williams described that as one of ‘the untruths, the distortions and the falsehoods contained in GML’s and Mr Bassant’s recent articles and television news stories’.

Another sticking point for John-Williams was the account used to pay for the TTFA’s material in Panama. The local body has two accounts at First Citizens Bank, through which it receives Fifa funding.

“I have invoices from Jose Alvarado that speaks to moneys being sent to his account from Royal Bank and Republic Bank invoices for the material you ordered from Panama,” stated Bassant, according to transcript offered by John-Williams. “Why did you use the Republic Bank and Royal Bank accounts to pay Ecotec? Whose accounts are those—because I know that TTFA has FCB accounts?”

John-Williams, in his defence, presented a wire transfer document that showed a US$282,418.97 payment from First Citizens Bank to Ecotec.

“The TTFA did not operate any account at RBC or Republic Bank during my tenure as president,” stated the football administrator. “At no time did Ecotec request the TTFA to pay its invoice via RBC and Republic Bank. TTFA paid Ecotec’s invoice from its US Fifa funds account at First Citizens Bank.”

However, Bassant showed John-Williams another document from Ecotec commercial director Juan Alvarado, during the CNC3 programme, which identified Republic Bank as the financial body through which ‘payment has/will be made through’.

That particular Ecotec invoice is yet to be explained.

John-Williams also attempted to rebut the claim, made previously by current TTFA president William Wallace, that the outgoing president received an advance of Fifa Forward Development Programme money for the period of 2019-22.

“John-Williams received […] the second tranche […] earlier than usual from Fifa in January 2019, an election year for the TTFA and choosing a new president,” stated Bassant. “Fifa’s Veron Mosengo-Omba failed to inform Wallace that John-Williams had already received that money in January 2019, money that still remain unaccounted for.

“[…] Just like the Concacaf loan that David John-Williams applied for in 2016 and was granted in May 2017—a loan no one knew he had taken to this day and that we uncovered during our investigation.”

John-Williams’ first point, in response, was, arguably, semantics.

“David John-Williams did not apply for and was not granted any loan from Concacaf in the sum of US$400,000 in March 2016 or any sum,” he stated. “Any and all applications to Concacaf were made by the TTFA with the approval of its Board.”

In other words, John-Williams applied for the loan as ‘John-Williams the TTFA president’ and not ‘John-Williams the private citizen’.

Second, John-Williams stated that his administration did not receive the full allocation of US$2 million, although it is uncertain that Bassant claimed otherwise.

“As at September 2019, the TTFA applied for and received the aggregate sum of US$655,495.88 against its allocation and not US$2 million, as insinuated,” stated John-Williams.

Arguably, since the US$2 million represented money due over a four-year cycle, John-Williams—if the figure he gave is accurate—still received more than his share, even if slightly so.

John-Williams also disputed whether any of the loans granted to his administration were secret. By way of evidence, the former president showed excerpts from the TTFA’s annual financial statements, which showed loans and grants from Concacaf and Fifa.

(Curiously, the Fifa Forward grant showed up in the TTFA’s 2016 financial statement, but not in 2017 or 2018.)

“The Board of the TTFA and its members were fully aware of all loans from Concacaf and the purpose of the loans,” stated John-Williams. “All loans were recorded in the audited financial statements of the TTFA for 2016, 2017 and 2018—approved by the TTFA Board as well as passed and approved unanimously by the members of the TTFA at the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Annual General Meetings of the TTFA.”

John-Williams still has not taken legal action against Bassant and the Guardian Media Limited, while many of the programme’s claims remain unanswered. ‘DJW’ vowed to get there though.

Today, John-Williams, who oversaw an almost tripling of the TTFA’s debt during his four-year term, painted himself as a scapegoat for global disenchantment with football corruption.

“It is clear that GML’s and Mr Bassant’s articles and television news stories have used the poor reputation which football administration at the global level has earned itself in the past,” stated John-Williams, “as a cover for making inaccurate, careless and unsubstantiated allegations against me—in the obvious hope that the public, jaded by stories of corruption at the global level in the past, will today accept, without question, the false and distorted imputations and insinuations that they have determined to make against me.

“I am neither responsible for nor have I ever been a part of the debacle which played out at the level of global football administration in the past. And, to the extent permitted by my attorneys, it is my intention to continue to expose the false and distorted allegations and insinuations against me which GML and Mr Bassant have been selling the public, under the guise of investigative journalism.”

Bassant declined the opportunity to respond to John-Williams but suggested that his investigative work into the administrator is far from finished.

At present, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) is also investigating claims against John-Williams.