Watson set out to line own pocket, says crown

| 23/11/2015 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Canover Watson

(CNS): The former chair of the HSA was accused of being involved in a “cynical scheme to line his own pocket” with public cash, when the crown opened its case Monday against Canover Watson and his former personal assistant, Miriam Rodrigues. In an opening statement expected to last for several days, the prosecutor began setting out the allegations against Watson for fraud, corruption, conflict of interest and breach of trust and against Rodrigues and Watson for money laundering in connection with a card payment contract at the hospital awarded in 2010.

Patrick Moran, the deputy director of public prosecutions, assisted by crown counsel Toyin Salako, said the crown would show that Watson and his close friend and business associate Jeffrey Webb, who is charged but not yet on trial, were the owners of the company AIS (Cayman) Ltd, which won the multi-million contract with the Health Services Authority (HSA) and the government insurance company, CINICO. He said Watson was not only chair of the hospital board at the time of the tendering process, he was also chair of the technical committee that managed the bidding for the CarePay system contract.

In what is expected to be a very complex case, depending heavily on emails and documentation to show the very close links between Watson and Webb and how the former HSA board chair failed to disclose his interest in AIS, Moran said the relationships between the men was fundamental to the case. But he told the jury not to speculate about Webb and why he was not in the dock alongside Watson and Rodrigues.

Explaining why Rodrigues was charged, Moran said that she was a trusted part of the scheme who assisted Watson in several ways, including moving cash on his and Webb’s behalf and had access to his bank accounts. The crown said that she knew that Watson and Webb were the main local beneficiaries of AIS (Cayman) Ltd. The prosecutor told the jury that a “great deal of money went directly or indirectly to Watson,” over a three-year period after AIS won the contract.

Watson was a businessman who won awards and was a figure of inspiration, Moran said. “But in this case his actions were far less honourable than those that had won him honours. We say it was a cynical scheme to line his own pockets and others with public funds.”

The success of the fraudulent scheme was dependent on Watson’s role as chair of the HSA board and the abuse of his position to do everything he could to ensure that the contract was awarded to the entity he had control of and a beneficial interest in, Moran explained.

The prosecutor said some 18,000 pages of emails alone had been seized in the investigation and much of the crown’s case would be dependent on correspondence between the parties. As he outline the various players in the story, he also began directing the jury to incriminating email evidence that the prosecution depends upon showing communication between Watson and Webb discussing the creation of AIS and the tendering process for the contract ahead of the HSA’s request for proposals (RFP) going out.

AIS was eventually registered by Rodrigues and signed with a stamp of Watson’s signature. The fees were paid by a banker’s draft drawn on one of Watson’s company accounts. The firm was a partnership with Watson and Webb as well as the original Jamaica-based firm AIS that specialises in payment systems.

Drilling down into some of the details and illustrating the close ties of Watson and Webb, Moran read emails between the men discussing the need to pay the company fees for AIS as well as fees for two other companies in which the men were partners — Caribbean Sports and the W-Group. He told the jury that the latter company was important to the case because money connected to AIS and the hospital CarePay contract was moved through it.

The jury was directed to emails between the two men where they discuss issues relating to the tendering process after it was underway and the possible removal of a member of the technical committee because he had circulated the request for proposals for the contract to possible overseas bidders. Even though the documents were public by then, Watson criticised that committee member to Webb as they discuss the rivals for the contract he may have alerted. But, Moran said, Watson never disclosed his own interests to that technical committee.

He also directed the jury to correspondence between Watson, Webb and the Jamaican owners of the original AIS, which was based in Jamaica and supplied the expertise, as they all pitched for a similar contract in Trinidad against the backdrop of the Cayman RFP.

As he outlined a complex network of companies and ties between Watson and Webb and others, Moran said that neither men were named as official directors of AIS (Cayman) Ltd but that Eldon Rankin, who owns a construction company, and Jocelyn Morgan, a bookkeeper who has since left the island, were named as the directors on the documents. But Moran said that neither of those men appeared to have played any part in the business of the company, which was managed entirely by Watson and Webb.

Moran is scheduled to continue outlining the case at 10:30am in court five. The case is scheduled to last eight weeks.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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