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Messi affair: Tim Kee tries to explain $.4 million cover-up

Almost half a million dollars of taxpayers’ money routed through the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) has disappeared with TTFA president and Port of Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee unable to account for it.

Four hundred thousand dollars, which was the third biggest line item on the budget for the high-profile international friendly between Argentina and Trinidad and Tobago in Buenos Aires on June 4, went missing within two days of a $900,000 disbursement from the Ministry of Tourism, and set off a chain of events that led to a further $1.2 million loss for taxpayers.

Photo: Argentina captain and superstar Lionel Messi (centre) dribbles between Trinidad and Tobago players Lester Peltier (far left), Andre Boucaud (far right) and Carlyle Mitchell during an international friendly in Buenos Aires on 4 June 2014. Argentina won 3-0. (Copyright AFP 2014/Daniel Garcia)
Photo: Argentina captain and superstar Lionel Messi (centre) dribbles between Trinidad and Tobago players Lester Peltier (far left), Andre Boucaud (far right) and Carlyle Mitchell during an international friendly in Buenos Aires on 4 June 2014.
Argentina won 3-0.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Daniel Garcia)

The money, according to sources, was demanded by marketing executive Darren Millien, who was handpicked by TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips to represent the football body for the excursion.

Millien, according to an audited accounting statement and other related documents in Wired868’s possession, insisted upon two cash payments of $200,000 each from tour operator, Nissi Tours, as a “licensing fee” for the TTFA. The money was hand-delivered by Nissi representative and former 2006 World Cup player David Atiba Charles.

Invoices signed by Millien suggested that the “licensing fee” reached the intended recipients while Charles assured Wired868 that he made the delivery. The former W Connection defender also told Minister of Tourism Gerald Hadeed, in Millien’s presence, that he handed over the supposed licensing fee.

However, Millien, a former SPORTT Company and West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) executive, denied receiving the cash; his signature, he claimed, was forged.

“They said they had receipts I signed for $400,000,” Millien told Wired868. “When we looked at it, it was nothing like my signature. I presented copies of my signature and it was nothing like it.”

Hadeed, who learned of the fraud in an explosive meeting on May 30, has apparently left it for Tim Kee to investigate the missing taxpayers’ money. Wired868 could not reach Hadeed for comment.

It, arguably, is now a case of the TTFA investigating the TTFA over its role in the disappearance of public funds.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) Raymond Tim Kee (right) enjoys some conversation at the 2014 FIFA Congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Copyright TTFA Media)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) Raymond Tim Kee (right) enjoys some conversation at the 2014 FIFA Congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
(Copyright TTFA Media)

Tim Kee did not even inform the TTFA’s executive committee of the con until, six months later, when football officials got wind of the scandal and asked questions at a meeting on 17 November 2014.

According to a source, Tim Kee, who is also the PNM treasurer and a member of two FIFA standing committees, told the TTFA ExCo that the matter was reported to the Fraud Squad and so he was unable to discuss it. He repeated that claim to Wired868.

Remarkably, Millien claimed to have had input in the query that was filed with the Fraud Squad; and, despite evidence to the contrary, said Nissi Tours was the accused.

“We sent copies of (the Nissi Tours) report to the Fraud Squad,” said Millien. “They have to answer questions about the wild allegations of 400,000 in cash.”

However, senior police sources assured Wired868 that no report involving Millien or the TTFA whas ever brought to the attention of the Port of Spain Fraud Squad. Millien, Tim Kee and the TTFA are all based in Port of Spain while the payments were allegedly made in the Hyatt Hotel car park and at MovieTowne in Port of Spain.

Tim Kee promised to send Wired868 a copy of the file sent to the Fraud Squad. But, a day later and up to the time of publishing, he had not done so.

Meanwhile, even as the fraud matter is supposedly being investigated, Millien remains employed by the TTFA on a contract basis. He is, ironically, the face behind the football body’s push to raise money through the TTFA’s FIFA-funded income generation programme.

Tim Kee, who said he had a lot of respect for Millien, tried to explain why the TTFA is paying someone under investigation for fraud to raise money.

Photo: One 2 One Marketing director Darren Millien runs the TTFA's FIFA-funded income generation programme.
Photo: One 2 One Marketing director Darren Millien runs the TTFA’s FIFA-funded income generation programme.

“Sheldon hired Darren Millien as he seemed to have had the qualifications to do it and I do not micro-manage,” said the football president, who claimed allegations against Millien were politically motivated. “As a human being, I myself have been subjected to a lot of things that were untrue; so I didn’t want to judge Darren on anything that might not be true.

“But, anytime I catch him, he will be on his own… I’m not taking that kind of blame at this stage of my life.”

Wired868 asked Millien what he brought to the cash-strapped body after almost 18 months as a marketing consultant.

“I was assisting (the TTFA) in its commercial programme,” said Millien. “We made a lot of approaches to commercial sponsors and we are just awaiting feedback from them.”

Millien has found revenue for himself, though. In the last two months, the One 2 One Marketing company, which lists Sherwin Derek Wong and Millien as its directors, received just over $60,000 from the football body.

During that period, the Government stepped in twice with financial rescue packages for the TTFA who had not paid per diems to its national women’s team players or match fees and salaries to the senior men’s team players and coaches.

Phillips has done well for himself too.

While then technical director Anton Corneal and other coaches worked for free, Phillips virtually doubled the housing allowance afforded to previous general secretary Richard Groden as the allowance rose sharply from $11,000 to around $21,000. And, while Groden’s starting salary was $15,000 in 2004, Phillips is understood to pay himself between $23,000 and $24,000.

Tim Kee defended Phillips’ remuneration.

Photo: TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee (right) and general secretary Sheldon Phillips. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee (right) and general secretary Sheldon Phillips.
(Courtesy Wired868)

“Sheldon’s allowance was aligned to what was paid to Groden,” said Tim Kee. “Groden was occupying one of (Jack) Warner’s houses and he rented a vehicle for around $19,000 a month. When you look at the combination of both they would come up to the same.”

Wired868 understands that Groden actually received a vehicle allowance of roughly $8,000 per month. Phillips, incidentally, also has a company vehicle.

“(Phillips) went to Lifestyle Motors and worked out an arrangement where it is paid for in kind,” said Tim Kee.

Lifestyle Motors has given the TTFA use of a vehicle, which Phillips drives, but, instead of cash, the company receives benefit by placing banners and billboards at national team games without charge.

Even without adding the cost of the billboards that the TTFA waives so Phillips can have his vehicle, the general secretary’s salary plus allowances is notably higher than his predecessor’s and at a time when the football body complains of being virtually insolvent.

Potentially more lucrative are Phillips’ side interests. He is the owner and sole employee of consultancy firm Element Agency + Events in Columbia, Maryland, which, Wired868 has been told, does marketing and operates as a match agent.

Phillips’ CV features a single reference of note to Element Agency. In 2012, in collaboration with James Grant Sports and the Baltimore Ravens, the firm put on an exhibition match between Liverpool and Tottenham.

In February 2013, three months after Tim Kee became TTFA president, Phillips got his first gig with the local football body when he organised Peru’s trip to Couva for an international friendly.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Sheldon Bateau (centre) in friendly action against Peru at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Sheldon Bateau (centre) in friendly action against Peru at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

One London-based match agent, who operates in the Caribbean, explained to Wired868 how they earn their pay.

Agents usually charge a minimum of £5,000 per game plus full affair costs, which means all expenses such as travel costs and match fees. On top of that flat fee, agents usually demand a percentage of gates and television revenue as well.

An agent with a commitment from an international team to arrange a game on a particular day, for instance, can hawk around the world until he or she finds a suitable football association that will pay the most for the match.

Trinidad and Tobago is a more attractive proposition to match agents than one might think. It is one of the few international teams that generally has all its “affair costs” paid for by its government.

So, in theory, a match agent could charge the Romania or Saudi Arabia FAs for the cost of airline tickets and match fees for the Trinidad and Tobago team and then pocket that money once the trip is written off by the Ministry of Sport while still benefitting from a booking fee and cut of the gates and television rights.

Under Tim Kee, the “Soca Warriors” have played 12 international friendless and nine of them were abroad against Argentina, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Estonia, Peru, Belize and Jamaica. Audited statements were not provided to the TTFA executive or the Government for any of those matches.

When Phillips became the TTFA’s general secretary, in May 2013, he told Wired868 that he would no longer run Element Agency owing to an obvious conflict of interest.

Yesterday, Phillips denied that he was using his position at the TTFA to earn substantial fees as a match agent. He claimed to have an affidavit from the Romanian agent involved in the friendly clash between the two nations in 2013, which states that Phillips “was never given or asked for a fee.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Marvin Phillip in action against Romania in May 2013. (Courtesy AP)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Marvin Phillip in action against Romania in May 2013.
(Courtesy AP)

“As general secretary, I cannot act as an agent,” said Phillips. “When I started to hear this claim, I wanted to quell it and that is why I got that affidavit from the gentleman.”

He did not explain why he felt a statement from a fellow agent cleared him.

Wired868 also received emails that showed Phillips used his Element Agency account to conduct much of the TTFA’s business for the Argentina tour while, in others, he used his TTFA or Gmail accounts.

Phillips insisted his use of his Element Agency account, while sorting out details for international football matches, was an honest mistake. While Tim Kee said he advised his general secretary to stick to Gmail—rather than his TTFA address.

“I have a glitch in my email where sometimes emails that go out go out with my Element address,” Phillips told Wired868. “I’ve tried to fix it and even disabled the address but emails still go out. I have to get that fixed.

“Element has never been a part of anything since I got involved in the TTFA.”

So, who put on the Trinidad and Tobago/Argentina friendly?

“That would be World Eleven,” said Phillips.

Renowned London-based Argentinean journalist Marcela Mora y Araujo, whose freelance employers include the UK Guardian and Telegraph and the US-based Sport Illustrated, was working in Buenos Aires at the time of the match and she gave a different story.

“I was told by World Eleven that the game was not organised by them,” said Mora y Araujo, “but rather by the AFA directly.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Ataulla Guerra (centre) pays tribute to Argentina captain Lionel Messi before kick off on June 4. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Ataulla Guerra (centre) pays tribute to Argentina captain Lionel Messi before kick off on June 4.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

Millien is no stranger to controversy either. In 2005, the then WICB Chief Marketing Officer was among several officials grilled by a three-member committee over the Board’s controversial contract with Digicel behind the backs of its then sponsor, Cable & Wireless, and amidst rumours of illicit kickbacks.

The committee, which was chaired by Trinidadian Justice Anthony Lucky and included Antiguan chartered accountants Avondale Thomas and Gregory Georges, ruled that the Digicel contract was legally flawed and null and void.

Millien also appeared before a Parliamentary committee during the last PNM administration to answer questions on the controversial $2 million flag, which haunted previous Sport Minister Gary Hunt.

As soon as the Ministry of Tourism agreed to partner with the TTFA, Phillips introduced Millien to the tour operators for the event.

“Darren has been my go to guy for the tour arrangements,” said Phillips, via one email. “The ministry confirmed everything so he should be contacting you…”

Then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Juliana Boodram, had little knowledge of football but saw the benefits of a high-profile match with an estimated broadcast audience of 300 million. The $2.1 million cost of taking the Warriors to Argentina was also cheaper than a booth at either of the world trade shows in London or Berlin.

Boodram’s job was to liaise with Phillips and Millien to ensure the event went smoothly and the public purse was protected.

What followed was a tour she would never forget.

 

Editor’s Note: In Part Two, Tourism Minister Gerald Hadeed warns public about TTFA rep and ex-WICB official Darren Millien and promises police report; Wired868 follows up on TTFA $.4 million licensing fee con. Click HERE to read.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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142 comments

  1. Adrian, guess you din read the entire article or listened to the interview this morning. Millien is saying that his signature was forged, so whoever collected the money, forged the man signature.

  2. There is a God! All that is in the dark will come to light one day yes.

  3. Simple there must be a paper trail so Tim Kee and Co. are just playing de arse!! I’m certain that they know what went where and how…..

  4. and they giving and they giving and they giving (sung to Black Stalin song), and they taking and they taking and they taking and they taking.

  5. Maria 34 million …..poof, gone. No one held accountable.

  6. Whatever happened to the next one? Creed, he run away and get off scotch free… no questions asked, just rode off into the sunset eh.

  7. I am going to do do the investigation. It’s simply a matter of who paid the cash and who received the cash. This should be a 10 minute investigation.

  8. Raymond Tim Kee said on TV6 he asked Sheldon Phillips to prepare a file for the Fraud Squad… To essentially investigate Sheldon Phillips and his “go to guy” Darren Millien….
    And the TTFA continues to employ both men while they steered an investigation into themselves…
    Take win Tim Kee. We know to watch you closely if there is a change of Government with that sort of expert management style.

  9. Cannot wait for Part 2. and fwding this to so many of my contacts.

  10. Phillips told Wired868. “I’ve tried to fix it and even disabled the address but
    emails still go out. I have to get that fixed. -Sheldon Phillips……..priceless yes!

  11. Phillips insisted his use of his Element Agency account, while sorting out details for international football matches, was an honest mistake.
    While Tim Kee said he advised his general secretary to stick to
    Gmail—rather than his TTFA address.” LOL!

  12. BOOOM!! BOODOOM!! What an article! Somebody really has done a lot of digging. Kudos Liburd. Kudos! Nuff Respect . This is just scratching the surface, but what a scratch and a dent you put on the awesome twosome. M and P.

  13. The first task would be to document and account for all of the outstanding expenses of the TTFA. Those figures should be disclosed and real liabilities stated on the balance sheet . Then we must identify any contingent liabilities where It is not clear if the liability exists or will materialize. All sources of income must be identified and ensure that it gets into the TTFA coffers, especially television and media rights. A budget for the future programs must be devised and the current and planned deficit calculated. This would be made public and all will be allowed to contribute .

  14. My position is that the TTFA should be run like a company on the stock exchange . The public should be able to contribute and receive a quaternary report of how their money was spent and the progress made with each team, and development program. Sponsors will be more willing to invest in the team if they have an avenue for giving their input and getting feedback.

  15. refs too being owed in the ssfl from since 2011 and in the super league youth competitions for 2012 and i believe some 2013-2014 monies still outstanding…. i have contacts from the various leagues which state that the monies owed to referees have been passed on to the ttfa already since last year and as early as january this year. but it has not reached the referees as yet.

  16. Alana Morton I keep finding my choices are the devil and the deep blue sea.

  17. Isn’t this Sheldon Phillips the son of Lincoln Phillips? And if it is, didn’t that coach get a $50,0000 for two days coaching with the Women Soca Warriors for their match in USA?

  18. And a person was defending Sheldon on this site and saying he is a lawyer… like they don’t know it have duncee lawyer too…. YEAH!

  19. This is as lame an excuse as anyone could proffer to defend himself from a real accusation: I have a glitch in my email where sometimes emails that go out go out with my Element address,” Phillips told Wired868. “I’ve tried to fix it and even disabled the address but emails still go out. I have to get that fixed. -Sheldon Phillips.

  20. You do realise that Mariano was also a difficult choice? During the campaign it emerged that he had not been meeting his responsibilities with respect to his role as treasurer and questions also arose regarding his handling of certain money related matters. I was deeply disappointed to discover that and decided to vote for neither candidate. I am sure the PNM is well aware of the albatross potential of Mr. Tim Kee and better will be done in time.

    On another note, when Tim Kee was running for the presidency of the TTFF/TTFA, I also disagreed with it since, he’s been there since the heydays of JW and Oliver Scamp and so I didn’t have high expectations as some did. I was disheartened when the other candidate dropped out, leaving Tim Kee unopposed. Ideally, I think anyone that was part of the management of the TTFF/TTFA during the reign of JW and Oliver Scamp should have cleared out or been removed and a brand new team brought in. These hangers-on and remnants will invariably continue to perpetuate some of, if not all of the bad habits and filthy culture of that sick organisation. To add insult to injury, the organisation is bankrupt both financially and morally so they can’t even meet their basic obligations.

  21. They located in Marabella Nicholas Lochan. They offered packages to the Brazil World Cup 2014. I think Jefferson George also has a major role there Lasana Liburd

  22. Grand will be the day when the TTFA manages its finances such that the ‘T&T government’ does not have to bail out the TTFA at every turn! I still hope there are reasonable logical answers to all of these financial discrepancies.

  23. They got the promised money up to the time of the TTFA / native spirit press release.
    If you remember there will still jerseys being sold after and native spirit had promised to waive some of the costs they deducted. Those things never got to Akeem’s family.
    Also it was something like six months after the funeral when the government finally reimbursed the family for funeral expenses as promised.

  24. Brian you drank the kool aide. A health man like u should have known that kool aide not good 4 u.

  25. Lasana its really shambolic that players & staff go unpaid for months/years while some people are finding ways to siphon money for their own benefits…The “new” TTFA appears to be an exchange rather than a change from the old regime…I am terribly disappointed in the main players currently at the helm as I know them both, and truly felt they had Football’s best interest when they took over.

  26. guess thats why referees not being paid for outstanding games also……

  27. So Phillips can’t operate his own email ? What email glitch…that is rubbish !

  28. Vernal Damion Cadogan , I’m all for that protest

  29. What was the final outcome of the Akeem debacle? What funds were paid over, if any?

  30. Sorry i didn’t know you were on. Wish you mentioned it last night. I agree. Keep digging and we’ll keep the prayers coming. Expose them all even if Ministers are involved,

  31. Just like the energizer bunny, it just keeps going on and on and on…..

  32. The pillaging must stop. Dig on Lasana!

  33. Translation: I really don’t like that story but can’t find anything to sue.

  34. U cyah b half pregnant so is either it is libel or not. Bodering on libel steupssssss.

  35. When would we see some high official make a jail! It’s like a free for all in Trinidad. No one ever pays a price unless it’s some low income person

  36. I too wanted (and voted for) Mariano Browne; I preferred a smorgasbord rather than a slate, but this is the weakness of our system: once one is anointed, or perceived to be favored, by the leader one is accepted by the masses.

  37. Who vex lorse! from Day1 I was rooting for Mariano Browne as PNM Treasurer. GET RID OF TIM KEE, NOW!

  38. He may be not just another JW, but JW and Monteil rolled in one.

  39. Since the time he partially paid the Soca Warriors and would not say from where the money came I have had doubts about him.
    I suspect like Kwei Tung, another insurance man, he has money.

  40. T&T Women Footballers in Texas fiasco….the Akeem Adams T-Shirt bacchanal…now this….

  41. Hear nah, how could you be president of an association and not be responsible for happenings within that association?
    This is a uniquely Trinidadian concept, in the real world whenever an association hires a president it is understood that he os responsible. If head of an organization isn’t responsible for that organization, who the ass is and why is there a president?

  42. Lasana Liburd you are covered with prayers by us . keep up the great work

  43. They seem to be masters of, and continue to try to define, what lying is my friend!! Not sure if they know what the “truth” is anymore.

  44. I hope you do publish Part 2 eh….yeah

  45. They wanna treat you like they did Andrew Jennings now

  46. Raymond Tim Kee spoke after me on TV6 this morning. I only heard the end of it. But two things struck me:
    1) He claimed my article was a diabolic lie that bordered on libel. I would think if it was truly a lie it would be right in the middle of libel highway and not bordering on it.
    2) He claimed that they made a report to the Fraud Squad near the end of September. But the $400,000 payment was allegedly made in the middle of May and was discussed in a meeting that Tim Kee attended on May 28. How could Tim Kee leave something like that for four months?!
    Also, he promised to send me the copy of the fraud squad report and didn’t. The other things he mentioned were not relevant to the investigation on the missing $400,000.

  47. Well if it “bordering on libel” let him sue Wired! Where are the Financial Statements for the past how many years?

  48. Raymond Tim Kee spoke after me. I only heard the end of it. But two things struck me:
    1) He claimed my article was a diabolic lie that bordered on libel. I would think if it was truly a lie it would be right in the middle of libel highway and not bordering on it.
    2) He claimed that they made a report to the Fraud Squad near the end of September. But the $400,000 payment was allegedly made in the middle of May and was discussed in a meeting that Tim Kee attended on May 28. How could Tim Kee leave something like that for four months?!
    Also, he promised to send me the copy of the fraud squad report and didn’t. The other things he mentioned were not relevant to the investigation on the missing $400,000.