Crown: Watson defence ‘fanciful’

| 29/01/2016 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Canover Watson and his lawyer, Ben Tonner

(CNS): The deputy director of public prosecutions took just over four hours yesterday to summarise the crown’s case against Canover Watson for corruption in relation to a hospital contract. Patrick Moran described explanations given by the former HSA board chair for some of the incriminating evidence as “so fanciful it is almost insulting”, as he argued that the spreadsheets, budget projections and other accounts found on Watson’s computers and flash drives were very real.

Watson has claimed that many of the documents produced by the crown as evidence against him were just ‘fantasy figures’ or ‘doodling’ and ‘what if’ predictions if he had ever taken up the job offer from the owner of the Jamaican technology firm, AIS. They did not, he claimed, detail the money he and his friend and business partner, Jeffrey Webb, either took or expected to get from the hospital payment contract as the real owners of the local company, AIS Cayman Ltd.

As he pulled the case together, Moran outlined the charges against Watson and the evidence the crown says support the allegations, telling the jury, “This was no fantasy. It was very much a reality.”

Reviewing the chain of events, beginning with the first presentations and meetings between government officials and the team from AIS Jamaica, led by owner Doug Halsall, to Watson’s arrest some four years later, Moran compared Watson’s claims from the witness box and his statements to police with the documents that prosecutors recovered and the evidence of witnesses throughout the trial.

Moran pointed to communications that undermined many of Watson’s claims and documents that conflicted directly with explanations he had given. He said a constant theme of Watson’s evidence was that things were not his fault and it was always someone else. Moran suggested Watson refused to accept responsibility for any error as he claimed to be a volunteer when he was the board chair steering the contract through to completion.

The prosecutor pointed to the series of “calamitous errors” that he had blamed on his former personal assistant, Miriam Rodrigues, such as the documents she stamped in error with his signature, the money she used from his account to pay the fees and the creation of the AIS Cayman Ltd bank account. Worst of all, Moran said, were the complex mistakes Watson said she made that led to a doctored contract, in place of the right one, finding its way to health officials, which justified the national roll-out and a major pay day for Watson and Webb.

But Moran said there were numerous other people whom he blamed for mistakes and major omissions in the accounting documents discovered in his possession, including Karen Barnet, the bookkeeper who appeared to work for Watson in a number of his existing businesses as well as with AIS Cayman.

The former HSA board chair also pointed the finger at Ernest Powell, his partner in the fuel distribution firm, for pocketing money when the business was going south. The firm had received a $100,000 cash injection from AIS that he had first said came from one of the sham directors, Joscelyn Morgan, but later said it was actually Jeff Webb. He blamed Brac Informatics and then health minister, Mark Scotland, for the way the request for proposals for the contract had progressed, and Dale Sanders for the failure of the CarePay system.

But it was his friend Jeff Webb whom he blamed the most. Webb had made him do all manner of incriminating things, the prosecutor said, including drafting false documents for banks on Watson’s computer, assisting him with information regarding the contract and hiding his role as a beneficial owner in AIS. While the defence team had started out by implying that Moran was going to be the one taking “free kicks” at Webb, who was not in court to defend himself, the crown lawyer said in the end it was Watson who was taking plenty of “free-kicks of his own” against his friend.

The prosecutor told the jury they should give Watson the benefit of the doubt regarding his memory and the pressure of being in the witness box day after day, but even with those allowances they needed to ask themselves if Watson had done “his best to tell you the truth” or whether he had been evasive, dodged questions and changed answers to protect himself. Moran said he had done his best not to call Watson a liar but, given the answers, it was “the only logical conclusion”.

Moran said Watson had told many lies and if the jury was sure he had lied the question was, what was so wrong with the truth?

“Sometimes the truth is ugly, sometimes shameful, but the truth is that Canover Watson is guilty,” he said.

The case continues.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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