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ECOTEC

Mark Bassant

Lead Editor, Investigative Desk

Former T&T Football Association boss David John-Williams has further confirmed findings of a CNC3 investigative documentary titled “TTFA’s Secret Panama Trail” by admitting for the first time that he brokered a deal with the Panama-based company ECOTEC for structural materials for the Home of Football project in Couva.

Furthermore, he says he paid ECOTEC US$282,418.97 (TT$1.97m) upfront for their services in February 2018, as the documentary also uncovered.

The admission came more than three years after the deal which former TTFA executives were kept in the dark about the deal until it was disclosed in the documentary, and at a time when former and the most recent TTFA executives were still trying to decipher who exactly the project’s main contractor was until evidence uncovered by Guardian Media pointed to John-Williams himself.

In a 20-page release yesterday, John-Williams provided documents showing he did business with ECOTEC and paid them on February 21, 2018.

ECOTEC commercial director Juan Alvarado had confirmed to Guardian Media that payment was needed before the material could be delivered to Trinidad. The material was delivered in late February and the months of March and April of 2018.

The payment was made in the form of a First Citizens wire transfer from the TTFA’s FC bank account on February 21, after the TTFA wrote to FC Senior Operations Manager Angus Mc Neil about the wire transfer that was signed off by John-Williams and the association’s then finance administrative manager Tyril Patrick.

The evidence provided proof that the FC payment was made in its entirety to ECOTEC and John-Williams said in his release, “The TTFA did not operate any account at RBC or Republic Bank during my tenure. At no time did ECOTEC request the TTFA to pay its invoice via RBC or Republic Bank. TTFA paid ECOTEC’s invoice from its US FIFA Funds account at First Citizens Bank.”

When Guardian Media confronted John-Williams several weeks ago, we had detailed invoices stamped which said, “I hereby declare that this is the only invoice received in connection with the good enumerated therein payment has/will be made through RBC bank.”

However, John-Williams refused to answer questions on the validity of those documents. In his first media release on the issue last week, John Williams claimed he was ambushed while playing golf in Couva. However, he was given a fair chance to answer questions about ECOTEC and others surrounding the Home of Football project long before the golf course interview but chose not to.

By confirming payment to ECOTEC in February in 2018 yesterday, however, John-Williams confirmed shipping sources information that when the containers came in February, March, and April 2018, John-Williams did not pay the shipping costs at that time.

This only a few weeks after he paid ECOTEC US$282,418.97 and by his own volition, received almost US one million through FIFA’s Forward Development Programme for the project in November 2017.

Documents showed that demurrage of US$53,000 was racked up while containers sat at the Port-of-Spain Port for weeks after it arrived. John-Williams still has not answered why.

In his release yesterday, John-Williams claimed that he “did not apply for and was not granted any loan from CONCACAF for $400,000 in March 2016 or any other sum and all applications were made by the TTFA with the approval of its board.”

The Guardian Media investigative never mentioned any loan in 2016 but showed proof of a document for 2017 that showed John-Williams and CONCACAF’s General Secretary Phillip Moggio signing off on a loan for US$600,000, in which the conditionality was that the loan be paid back by the end of 2017 or it would accrue interest.

John-Williams claimed the then-board knew about this 2017 CONCACAF loan.

“The board of the TTFA and its members were fully aware of all loans from CONCACAF and the purpose of the loans,” he said.

However, at least two former TTFA board members we spoke to on condition of anonymity said they had no knowledge of the loan.

“If that loan was taken in 2017, I can say I knew nothing about it,” of former board member said.

Another former TTFA member added, “The initial loan may have been mentioned, but I will have to check my records, but I don’t recall hearing anything further after that.”

In fact, in the documents John-Williams provided yesterday of the audited statements of the TTFA for 2016-2017, the 2017 CONCACAF loan was noted there.

Quite peculiar in the documents provided by John-Williams was that the FIFA Forward funding money showed up in the 2016 financial statement but there nothing for 2017 or 2018.

Former TTFA member Ramesh Ramdhan told Guardian Media that when they got into office in November 2019, they only knew about the outstanding 2017 CONCACAF loan after a letter was sent by CONCACAF’s Chief Financial Officer Alejandro Lesende outlining the entire amount being owed including the interest of US$662,000.

John-Williams also sought to rebut issues related to the FIFA funding for the Home of Football.

John-Williams had admitted when the project got going that FIFA approved US$2.25m for the project to be paid in tranches. Guardian Media explained this, also outlining the 2019 disbursement and the difference with the operational funding, stating US$700,000US was given in January of that year with the other US$500,000 due by July.

Yesterday, however, John-Williams claimed in 2019 he did not receive the entire FIFA Forward allocation.

“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,” John-Williams said.

However, the document obtained by Guardian Media from John-Williams himself clearly showed the money was broken down and sent in tranches for both the Home of Football and separately for operational costs incurred by the TTFA.

FIFA Veron Mosengo-Omba responded to now-ousted TTFA president William Wallace’s request in February 2020 about the FIFA Forward money. In his response, Mosengo-Omba made no mention that money had already been given to the TTFA under John-Williams in 2019.

John-Williams confirmed the money had already been issued in his latest media release.