English football coach Terry Fenwick has been allegedly linked to a $450,000 attempted fraud which is under investigation by TT Police Service (TTPS).
It is alleged there was an attempt to misinform the ministry’s permanent secretary, Gillian Macintyre, by stating that Ma Pau had invested $8.5 million in refurbishing the Morvant recreation ground.
The file also included alleged references to “before and after” photographs purporting to be of the grounds but which were photos of a facility outside of T&T.
The alleged fraud only came to light after the $450,000 cheque had been issued payable to Ma Pau.
A source inside the Ministry of Sport, who wished to remain anonymous said: ” Fenwick and his partner were in and out of the ministry for a few weeks looking for money for his football club and his coaching school, Football Factory. Everything seemed normal until it was discovered that Ma Pau’s application to join the Pro League had been rejected.”
As per the terms of the funding, Macintyre immediately moved to cancel the cheque.
However, upon review of the file, various inaccuracies were discovered, resulting in a decision to call in the police to investigate further.
“The last thing we want in the ministry is another scandal,” said the source. “Unknown to many of us, the minister had put in place a system to check files that were approved for funding to ensure proper procedures were followed.”
The source said one such procedure would usually be a site visit.
“We are supposed to go and check on the people applying to ensure everything is exactly as claimed. Usually an application takes several weeks to be approved. However, in the case of Ma Pau, it was processed in a week.
“I have never seen a file like that approved so fast. It appears there wasn’t time to conduct a site visit which would have exposed the discrepancies.”
When contacted on the matter Dexter Skeene, the chief executive officer of the T&T Pro League confirmed that an application was made by Fenwick and that the Board is currently looking into the application.
“The application wasn’t approved yet but we try to help all new clubs coming in,” Skeene said.
When asked if he knew about the investigations of alleged fraud in which Fenwick is allegedly involved, Skeene replied: “No. I am not aware of all this.”
The source added that the speed of the application even beat Sports Minister Brent Sancho’s additional oversights.
“The minister was not even aware of the application until after the PS (permanent secretary) cancelled the cheque. Apparently he was furious that nobody identified the discrepancies.”
While the ministry’s staff were aware there was a problem, they were surprised to be called to be interviewed by the police.
“They had lots of people questioned, including the Sport and Physical Education Department and people from accounts. The interviews lasted several hours,” the source added.
Sancho and Fenwick were World Cup defenders for their respective countries, and Fenwick coached Sancho at San Juan Jabloteh.
The roles were later reversed when Sancho was managing director of Central FC and employed Fenwick as head coach. However, it has not been explained why Fenwick did not approach Sancho for funding from his ministry.
When contacted by the TT Guardian, Sancho confirmed there was an investigation into a possible fraud connected to a funding request from the former coach (Fenwick) of Central FC the reigning T&T Pro League champions.
“Yes, there is an investigation in the hands of the police but I cannot discuss details at this time,” he added.
When asked if Fenwick was involved, the minister replied: “Yes, it was an application by Terry. However, until the investigation is completed there should be no assumption of guilt against anybody involved in the matter.
“We have seen too many instances of internet bloggers making false accusations without any proof of wrongdoing and I am not about to join their gutter politics brigade”
When contacted, Sancho’s adviser, Kevin Harrison, also confirmed the investigation but refused to comment on its progress.
“It’s the most serious instance that’s happened since the minister was appointed in February. The most worrying factor is that he had no idea that this application existed until Ma Pau’s application to the Pro League had been rejected. It appears that the application was processed in a manner to avoid it coming to the minister’s attention,” the source said.
The source added that there may now be further investigations into Fenwick’s receipt of funding for his Football Factory coaching school.
“The minister is now having all approved applications for funding reviewed to ensure his policies were followed. I am sure the Football Factory will be one of the first to be reviewed.”
When contacted yesterday for comment, Fenwick admitted he did apply to the TT Pro League but disclosed his application was being hampered, allegedly by officials within the ministry.
“It is a long story. One that I am willing to tell because I have all the necessary documentation in order,” Fenwick said.
When asked if he was misled or tricked in one way or the other, Fenwick replied: “No.”
Fenwick, who is married to lawyer Reyna Kowlessar, moved to Belgium last summer to take control of a club but returned when a number of alleged financial irregularities forced the club to part company with several of Fenwick’s business partners.