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Guardian Media Lead Editor, Investigative Mark Bassant grills former TTFA president David John-Williams during an interview at the Brechin Castle Golf Course, Couva, recently. PHOTO: Abraham Diaz

Former T&T Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams, who is now facing a criminal probe by police for financial transactions during his TTFA tenure (2015-2019) in connection with the Home of Football project, also has a near $30 million debt weighing heavily on his shoulders. The millions are owed to several businesses including a state entity, according to court documents obtained by Guardian Media.

In October of 2019, the San Fernando High Court handed down a judgment of some $23.4 million to Venture Credit Union and ordered that John-Williams repay the money he was loaned by the institution. A month following the ruling, the credit union had vowed to levy against John-Williams if the loan was not repaid.

It has been exactly a year since the ruling and Venture Credit Union says there has been no attempt by John-Williams to repay the money. This prompted the company to post a newspaper advertisement last month requesting his whereabouts and listing his last known address as LP 1, Point Coco Estate, Irois Forest, Chatham.

The ad was posted a few days before a Guardian Media expose entitled “TTFA’s Secret Panama trail”, in which financial details surrounding the Home of Football in Couva were revealed after a year-and-a-half-long GML investigation. Questions were raised in the investigative documentary about particular business transactions John-Williams conducted during his stint as TTFA president that were connected to the multi-million-dollar facility.

Venture Credit Union debt

In an interview with Guardian Media on September 18, 2020, Venture Credit Union CEO Ramesh Lutchman confirmed that the David John-Williams being sought in the press ad was the former TTFA president.

“In answer to your question yes, it is the same person,” Lutchman said.

Guardian Media questioned the purpose of the list of persons in the ad and Lutchman indicated, “The purpose of the list is to contact our members on matters of mutual interest.”

He admitted that for months now, it had become an onerous task trying to track down John-Williams.

“Venture Credit Union secured a judgment against Mr John-Williams both through the Commissioner of Cooperative Development and the High Court. We have been unable to reach Mr John-Williams, as such we are reaching out to him publicly regarding a matter of mutual interest.”

Guardian Media inquired whether John-Williams had made any attempt to repay the outstanding amount in part or whole.

Lutchman said, “The judgment is public information and is yet to be settled.”

He said up to September 18, John-William had made no attempt to communicate with the credit union or had given any indication of his intention to repay in a timely manner.

“The advertisement is to be continued as we await from all persons listed therein. Our continued course of action is to continue reaching out to members and to pursue all available options for the full recovery of the amount owing.”

Lutchman said the credit union had faced a backlash of criticism by their customers and shareholders alike over this particular transaction. Credit union customers on social media platforms, according to Lutchman, had been asking how they had not been able to locate this particular individual and why they had not been able to levy on John-Williams following the court judgement.

In fact, on October 17 at Venture Credit Union’s annual general meeting, one person asked about details regarding John-Williams’ loans, including who granted the loan and what collateral was offered for the loan when it was granted.

Two days before we spoke to Lutchman, a copy of the judgement was sent to John-Williams via WhatsApp. Guardian Media asked, “Was this settled as yet, Mr John-Williams?” John-Williams read the message as indicated by two blue ticks but never responded.

Sources familiar with the matter said in early October after the publication of the advertisement, John-Williams’ lawyer Anand Misir wrote to Venture Credit Union claiming libellous publication.

Guardian Media understands there were overtures by John-Williams in 2019 through a letter from his attorney to repay the money at some point. But nothing has materialised to date.

The $23.4 million, according to people familiar with the case, emanated from a series of loans taken sometime from 2012 to 2015 by John-Williams. The credit union initiated legal action in 2016 and secured judgment three years later.

Inter-commercial Bank waits too

But this trend does not end there, as Guardian Media discovered during its investigation. There were other judgements handed down by the High Court against John-Williams and none of the money has been repaid to the entities involved to date.

The Inter-commercial Bank, now known as (JMMB), was awarded a judgement against John-Williams on September 22, 2015, to the tune of $1,599,403.99 million. That claim, which Guardian Media obtained a copy of, was re-registered on February 12, 2019, in the High Court. Usually, claimants tend to re-register a judgement so that it will maintain priority over judgements registered by other judgement creditors over the same debtor, in this case, John-Williams.

Guardian Media reached out to a senior representative of JMMB on October 12 to inquire about the status of the judgement. After verifying with the bank’s legal department, the female senior executive, who wished not to be named, said, “We’ve been refiling over the years, that should tell you we have not received any money to date.”

NIB won’t divulge client info

In May 2016, the National Insurance Board was also awarded a judgement by the High Court in the sum of $2,569,929.31 million against defendants David John-Williams and his brothers Patrick John-Williams and Christopher John-Williams.

The judgement stated the name of the person whose estate is intended to be affected was David John-Williams.

This judgement was re-registered in August of 2018 with the figure now standing at $2,730,418.73m, as interest of roughly six per cent per annum is added on to the outstanding amount. Re-registering a judgement effectively means the money is still outstanding and must be done at least every three years to ensure the judgement maintains priority.

On October 12, Guardian Media contacted the office of NIB executive director Niala Persad-Poliah to inquire about whether the NIB had been repaid. A person at Persad-Poliah’s office indicated she was out of office but they would relay the message. On October 22, NIB’s Corporate Communications manager Tricia Clarke contacted Guardian Media about the matter. Clarke said due to client/customer confidentiality “we can’t divulge any information.”

In a separate matter involving the NIB, TTFA employees have alleged that during his tenure as TTFA president, the administration withheld some $4 million due to the NIB and the Ministry of Finance for PAYE, NIS and health surcharge for employees.

Guardian Media also understands two other court judgements were awarded to Massy Machinery Limited in June 2015 (CV2015-00572) in the sum of $493,986.07 and to Gordon Winter Company Limited in February 2011 (CV2009-00731) in the sum of $497,425.40) both against John-Williams. However, we could not ascertain whether these claims had been settled.

No response from John-Williams

Guardian Media sent several questions to John-Williams via WhatsApp surrounding the judgements and if there had been any attempt by him to repay the business entities involved.

The questions were sent twice on October 20 for John-Williams. At 12.37 pm when the questions were first sent, he read the messages as indicated by a blue tick but did not respond. The questions were again sent that day at 7.42 pm. The following day, the questions were again sent at 7.46 am and 10.47 am but there was no response. The questions were again sent twice the following day and still there was no response.

Questions for John-Williams:

Good morning again Mr John-Williams, I hope you are keeping safe. I am sending my questions again.

1. I am asking for the record once again for a story that I am working on as it relates to Venture Credit Union and if any attempts have been made to repay the monies owed after the Public court judgment. Senior officials at Venture speaking on the record said you have not made any payment to date. Can you just indicate if you have or have not?

2. Also, I have spoken to officials at Inter-commercial Bank, which was also awarded a judgement against you in the sum of $1.599m since 2015. They have indicated that they have had to re-register the claim since they have not received any payment to date. Based on this Public court document I have in my possession, can you say if any attempt has been made to initiate payment? A simple yes or no will suffice, please.

3. Also, the National Insurance Board (NIB) was awarded a judgement against you and brothers Patrick John-Williams and Christopher John Williams in May 2016 in the sum of $2.73m. This Public court document which I also obtained shows the claim was re-registered in August 2018. Have you made any attempts to pay NIB since then?

4. Also, have you settled the court judgments awarded to Massy Machinery Ltd in June 2015 for the sum of $493,986.07 and Gordon Winter Company Limited in February 2011 to the sum of $497,425.40? A simple yes or no would suffice since these court documents are all public.

SOURCE: T&T Guardian