The next time that Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace interacts with the First Citizens Bank, it will likely be in a court room.
The two parties agreed yesterday that only a judge could remedy their differences in a bizarre breakdown between client and service provider, which now exemplifies life for the besieged football administrator.
“My client will proceed as it deems fit, and if appropriate will seek appropriate redress against your client, given your client’s total failure to cooperate in this matter,” stated attorney Matthew Gayle, who represents the TTFA. “No further notice or warning of legal action shall be issued.”
The TTFA has an account with First Citizens Bank and Wallace, due to his election as president on 24 November 2019, has authority over it. And the local football body, which is formed by an Act of Parliament, has not informed the bank of any intention to change its signatories. Both sides agree on that much.
Where they disagree, however, is regarding what notice should be paid to Fifa’s obvious disdain for Wallace.
On 17 March 2020, the Bureau of the Fifa Council, which is headed by president Gianni Infantino, declared it had implemented a normalisation committee on the two island republic while secretary general Fatma Samoura subsequently insisted that the world governing body only recognises Robert Hadad as its man of business here.
Hadad’s letter of appointment from Fifa was far shy of the documentation needed to allow the normalisation committee chairman to access the TTFA’s account. But, in a surprise twist, First Citizens Bank declared that Wallace should not be able to use the account either.
The bank’s position, as relayed by its attorney Kendell Alexander from the Johnson, Camacho & Singh firm, is it has decided to attach weight to Infantino’s public efforts to jettison Wallace; and the potential for adjudication on the matter at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The TTFA constitution says its elected officers can only be removed via its own delegates at a general meeting. Alexander said he has taken ‘notice’ of that document. But, regardless, First Citizens Bank will not allow the TTFA president access to the football body’s account.
“The question of which group is the recognised governing body for football in the Trinidad and Tobago and more specifically the authorised persons to access the accounts of the TTFA remains a live issue to be determined,” stated Alexander. “To make it unequivocally clear, our client has not made any determination of the said live issue, but prefers that out of an abundance of caution that the issue be determined before it acts on any request with respect to the account.
“Our client maintains a neutral position in this matter, as a reputable and diligent bank, our client would be deemed to have notice of the TTFA’s Act of Incorporation, the TTFA constitution (which both make reference to Fifa’s systems and/or directives) together with the most recent articles in the press (on the arbitration and the position of each party).
“In this regard, we maintain our position that the issue of competing claims to the management of the said accounts is a matter for the Courts (at the cost of the party maintaining the claim to the said accounts).”
Gayle, on behalf of the TTFA, said his client was ‘taken aback’ by the ‘aggressive and defensive tone’ of the bank’s correspondence. And, more to the point, the football body disagreed with First Citizen’s position.
“Your attempt to make the distinction between not having made a determination on the one hand,” stated Gayle, “and on the other, ‘out of an abundance of caution’ effectively seizing and/or unlawfully preventing my client from accessing its accounts.
“Your client’s position is therefore per se not neutral and in direct contravention to the duty of prudence and fidelity owed to my client.”
Both parties now appear to be on a legal collision course with the bank vowing to inform the relevant judge about the publishing of their exchanges on Wired868.
At present, the contested TTFA account is empty—since it was the subject of a garnishee order by former technical director Kendall Walkes on 16 March, just hours before Fifa moved against Wallace.
However, it remains hot property as Fifa is trying to get US$2.5 million (TT$16.9 million) to the Hadad-led committee but, due to internal regulations, can only wire that money to an account taken out in the name of the TTFA.
Hadad said Fifa and the normalisation committee are exploring other avenues to get the funding to the island, outside of Wallace’s grasp.
In the meantime, the TTFA’s office staff have not been paid since February while technical staff members are unpaid for as long as five months.
Despite being appointed six weeks ago, Hadad is yet to meet the TTFA’s office employees or discuss contracts with football coaches. Although Covid-19 restrictions have made a physical meeting impossible, the businessman had a brief online chat with coaches on Zoom last week and promised a more substantial talk at an unspecified date in the future.