Lead Editor, Investigative Desk
A Guardian Media exclusive investigation has prompted a criminal probe by the white-collar division of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), into the activities of the T&T Football Association (TTFA), a Panamanian bank account linked to its former president David John-Williams and all business transactions involving the Home of Football project in Couva.
This investigation comes at a time when the sport of football and the cash-strapped TTFA is on the verge of facing its darkest ever moment—suspension by international football’s governing body FIFA come tomorrow. (See page 54)
The investigation was opened almost one week after the exclusive and explosive CNC3 documentary titled TTFA’s Secret Panama Trail, which detailed some of John-Williams’ activities regarding the Home of Football project while in office. Police investigators told Guardian Media that the criminal investigation was sparked by last Thursday’s documentary.
A high-powered team of investigators from the TTPS’ Fraud Squad, Anti-Corruption Bureau(ACIB) and the Financial Investigations Branch (FIB) met late Monday evening to discuss the matter and initiated the formal criminal investigation.
Senior investigators told Guardian Media they took a special interest in the documentary that unravelled questionable business transactions, a hidden Panamanian bank account and other alleged financial improprieties during John-Williams’ tenure.
“The probe will be looking at financial mismanagement and malfeasance at the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association,” a senior police source familiar with the impending investigation told Guardian Media yesterday.
Of critical concern to investigators is the Panama account linked to John-Williams and uncovered by Guardian Media with the help of forensic investigators. Police investigators would like to trace the source of funds in the account and why it was first hidden in off-the-shelf companies. This was disclosed yesterday by one of the senior investigators mandated to work on the case.
The forensic report uncovered the account at the BPR Bank SA in Panama, where two deposits amounting to just over half a million US dollars were made in April and August 2017 and another US$1m deposited into the account in 2018—making it a total of some US$1.5m found in the account.
The monies were deposited to the account after it had been passed through another account in the names of two now-defunct Panamanian companies—SOREG Inc and COLSOL Investment Corporation.
Investigators are also hoping to scour the TTFA bank accounts in an effort to better understand the money trail. They will be attempting to verify if any other accounts were used to transfer funds to Panama for the business arrangement with ECOTEC—which provided the structural material for the Home of Football on the instructions of John-Williams at a cost of $282,653.85, or for any other kind of business/banking arrangement that had been sanctioned without the consultation of the then TTFA board between 2015 and 2019.
The lead investigator in the probe will be Superintendent Ruben from the Fraud Squad and he will be assisted by heads and other senior ACIB and FIB officers in the expansive trans-Atlantic investigation.
During the CNC 3 documentary, questions were raised about who the main Home of Football contractor was, as evidence gathered pointed to it being John-Williams - who organised the structural material and oversaw business with ECOTEC. The invoices and material were sent directly to John-Williams.
John-Williams also made several trips to Panama during his tenure, unknown to any of his fellow TTFA executives. FIFA’s Forward Development Programme regulations had warned about any possible conflict of interest in the project.
Investigators say they will also be scrutinising this business arrangement to inquire if John-Williams may have allegedly profited in some way from the transaction.
Several former and present TTFA officials and other key people are also expected to be interviewed by the police in the investigation. FIFA officials may also form part of the blanket of people to be interviewed if needed.
Investigators are expected to interview three key people who may have intimate knowledge about certain financial transactions that may have gone down over the last few years. Guardian Media understands several other bank accounts of key individuals may also form part of the far-reaching probe.
The criminal investigation comes at a time with FIFA is locked in a legal battle with the TTFA—who had been asked to withdraw its court matter over the installation of a Normalisation Committee to restructure local football yesterday or face possible suspension when the FIFA Congress convenes tomorrow.