Oceania Football warned of liquidation over unpaid invoices

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A New Zealand judge has ordered the Oceania Football Confederation to pay more than 400,000 New Zealand dollars ($264,000) to a contractor which worked on its controversial Home of Football in Auckland, or face liquidation.

In a judgement released by the High Court, Associate Judge Warwick Smith ordered the confederation to pay for six unpaid invoices between February and April 2018. Smith said if the amount was not paid within 10 working days, the company, ESSL, could apply to have the confederation placed in liquidation.

The Home of Football project was launched by the Oceania confederation in 2012 and was to include two FIFA-standard football pitches, a grandstand, offices and an indoor futsal complex. FIFA provided a $10 million interest-free loan in September 2012 to assist with the development.

The first stage of the project was completed and work on stage two began in 2014. ESSL joined the project in 2017 and its contract ended in September 2018.

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OFC acting general secretary Frank Castillo said Tuesday $11 million had been spent on the project and stage two was not complete.

FIFA suspended its funding to OFC when the Home of Football went millions of dollars over budget and announced in April 2018 it was conducting a forensic audit of the project.

OFC president David Chung and secretary general Tai Nicholas subsequently resigned and have been suspended by FIFA for financial misconduct.

Nicolas was banned for eight years for “misappropriation of FIFA funds allocated to the OFC between 2014 and 2017 in relation to the OFC Home of Football.” Chung, a former FIFA senior vice-president, was banned for six years for “having offered and accepted gifts” and for having a “conflict of interest” around the project.

Both men were also fined.

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