Watson accused of doctoring contract to solicit more cash

| 28/11/2015 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Cayman Islands Hospital, George Town

(CNS): The former chair of the Health Services Authority Board was accused in court Thursday of doctoring an original contract he signed on behalf of the hospital as means of conning the health ministry out of some $2 million for a national roll-out of the payment system. As the trial of Canover Watson and Miriam Rodrigues continued, the crown focused on the events after the contract had been awarded and the efforts of Watson and his business partner, Jeffrey Webb, to access more cash in the alleged corrupt plan.

As Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran continued setting out the fraud that led Watson and Webb to cream millions from government contracts to line their own pockets, he painted a picture of manipulation and deceit.

Following the implementation of the CarePay system at the Cayman Islands Hospital in partnership with the government’s insurance company, CINICO, and AIS (Cayman) Ltd, the company the crown says Watson and Webb were really the owners of, Watson appeared keen to press on with a national roll-out of the payment system for private sector insurance and health care providers as well. However, that did not appear to be on the ministry’s radar.

Nevertheless, Watson pressed the issue by fraudulently altering the original contract, the crown claimed, to include a national roll-out as well. Clearly confident that the ministry would not cross-check the original documents, Watson achieved his end and managed to get the start-up cash he wanted to expand the project before questions began to be asked of the entire scheme.

Moran told the jury that, having manipulated the ministry into releasing over $1 million of capital with the doctored contract, that cash went into the Fidelity Bank account of AIS (Cayman). Describing it as the “clearest of deceptions”, Moran said that within a short period of time there was only $200,000 left of that money after it went out of the Fidelity account and into other accounts connected to Watson and Webb. Many cash withdrawals were made and Watson even transferred money from the account to a retail company in the US for a $100,000 home theatre system that was being installed in his Atlanta home.

During another day of presenting the crown’s case, Moran took the jury through more email communications and documentation that revealed the depth of involvement of both Watson and Webb in AIS (Cayman), even though neither of them were listed as formal directors. Moran pointed to incident after incident where it appeared Webb and Watson were the beneficial owners of the firm which Watson had contracted to implement the massively lucrative hospital payment system.

But as time rolled on, things started to go wrong and not just with the implementation of the system. Doug Halsall, a director of the Jamaica-based firm AIS and also a director of AIS (Cayman) Ltd, began to press Watson over missing money. There were disputes over transaction fees, as well as payments to the partner company AIS Ltd in St Lucia, which was doing the actual technical CarePay work.

Watson was also coming under fire in other directions: a freedom of information request was filed asking questions about the contract and the beneficial owners of AIS; the Office of the Auditor General began audit work where questions about the contract were being asked; and even Fidelity Bank began asking questions about the account for AIS (Cayman) and the know-your-customer clearance for what the crown said were the sham directors of the company as well as the Jamaican partner, Halsall.

Nevertheless, Watson and Webb continued in their endeavours, Moran claimed, defrauding the public purse and enriching themselves as a result of their corrupt schemes. Taking the jury through email after email showing the extent of Watson’s involvement in the day-to-day financial dealings of AIS (Cayman) Ltd, he said that rather than being a local company managing the hospital contract, employing staff and supervising the work, it was merely a bank account for Watson and Webb.

The trial continues.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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