Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams is not only being stalked by debt in public office.
Even as Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and FIFA president Gianni Infantino were insisting that John-Williams was well-placed to lead the local football body on to solid financial footing, the San Fernando High Court was authorising Venture Credit Union to use every legal avenue possible to recover a whopping TT$23 million, exclusive of interest, owed by the football administrator.
The High Court judgment was handed down on the same day that John-Williams held a gala opening for the TTFA Home of Football in Couva. And it follows years of pleading by the financial institution for the contractor and W Connection Football Club president to meet his debts.
A Venture Credit Union official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the timing of the order was the business of the courts and had nothing to do with their organisation. The credit union, the official said, has been chasing John-Williams for years.
At present, Venture Credit Union is unwilling to give details on what John-Williams requested the money for. The company does not want a public spat; it just wants to be paid.
“We are still trying to work with our client to see how best we can get our money,” the Venture official told Wired868. “We want our money. We don’t want to embarrass anybody; that is not our intention. We want to know if he has any intention of settling his debt and do not want to jeopardise our proposed discussions with him [by sharing more information on his financial issues].”
The official rubbished any suggestion that Venture had an interest in whether John-Williams remained as TTFA president, although the source suggested his financial problems might have ruled him out of public office in other fields.
“Venture is not a politically-affiliated organisation by any means,” said the official. “We are a solid organisation that has been around for over 60 years. It just so happens that this thing unfolded in October and November and that coincided with his election. But this thing has been going on for years.
“[…] A debt like this is a serious thing. If you have a judgment like this against you, then you cannot go up for a seat in government. I remember something similar happened to Larry Achong when he was going up for the Point Fortin seat and it had to be paid off.
“So you cannot serve in a ministerial position or in a politically-exposed office or run a bank with a judgment like this hanging over you. But I don’t know the ethics that governs Fifa, so I am not sure if it might affect him there.”
After years of failed negotiations and arbitration, Venture Credit Union was awarded judgment for TT$23,540,269 by acting Commissioner for Co-operative Development Andrea McKenna on 31 October 2019, in accordance with the Co-operative Societies Act.
The credit union followed up on this ruling with advertisements in the local media which requested ‘information on whereabouts [of] David John-Williams’ and listed his last known address as Point Coco Estate, Irois Forest, Point Fortin. Venture publicly urged John-Williams to contact its debt recovery department ‘on a matter of mutual interest’.
However, the official claimed that the TTFA president has not yet spoken to the credit union on the matter.
Wired868 asked John-Williams several questions on the issue.
“Have you been in contact with Venture Credit Union regarding your $23 million debt to the company? Are you bankrupt? Can you explain why your financial issues should not be a hindrance to your continuance as TTFA president?”
John-Williams did not respond up until the time of publication.
Debt, courtroom defeats and a refusal to negotiate with creditors has been a regular theme for John-Williams as football president. Just a day after the San Fernando High Court gave Venture license to go after ‘DJW’ for just over TT$23 million, the Port of Spain High Court ordered the TTFA to pay TT$5 million to former Men’s National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart for breach of contract and unpaid salaries and bonuses.
John-Williams, who was the only TTFA Board member to deal with Hart’s dismissal, did not even lodge a defence.
Another common factor in John-Williams’ legal defeats in a personal and professional capacity is attorney Annand Misir. Misir is employed as a TTFA attorney but, according to sources and in an apparent conflict of interest, also represented John-Williams in his personal capacity against Venture Credit Union.
Since John-Williams and general secretary Camara David have never overseen the proper set up of a Legal Committee—which is mandated by the constitution to ‘analyse basic legal issues relating to football’—the football president appears to have acted as the TTFA’s de facto legal counsel and often put the body into expensive court cases without sharing relevant information with his board.
Clearly, John-Williams has his own legal problems.
Venture Credit Union, according to the source, could not care less about John-Williams’ fight to hold off challengers William Wallace and Richard Ferguson in the TTFA election on Sunday 24 November.
“We grant funds to persons who need them and we are a lot more lenient than banks but we do move decisively,” said the Venture official. “We have an obligation to collect our debts because we have that responsibility to our membership. We do not pick and choose who we collect debts from.
“The body to decide on the validity of that debt is not Venture; it is an external, independent organisation—and to validate a judgment isn’t easy. We just want to get back our members’ money.”