Watson: mistakes and debts explain evidence

| 18/01/2016
Cayman News Service

Cayman Islands Hospital entrance

(CNS): Canover Watson pointed to more mistakes by his PA and money owed to him by his business partner as the reasons for the apparent incriminating evidence against him in relation to the AIS Cayman Ltd hospital payment contract. Watson gave innocent explanations to the jury for a catalogue of what prosecutors presented as evidence pointing to corruption, including a contract the crown claims was a doctored and used to manipulate the ministry into paying out more money, and payments from the AIS account to his own, .

As he continued to answer the charges against him Friday in a second full day of evidence, the former chair of the Health Services Authority Board blamed mistakes by his personal assistant at the time, Miriam Rodrigues, as well as poor money management and debts owed to him by Jeffrey Webb as the reasons why there appeared to be incriminating evidence against him.

Watson said his immersion in the affairs of AIS Cayman Ltd was not because he was a beneficial owner or was paid anything by the firm but because he wanted to keep the process on track.

A copy of the contract with AIS Cayman Ltd for the hospital verification and payment system, which the crown says was doctored and sent to various government officials to justify a payment from the ministry for the national rollout of the system, was sent by his PA by mistake as he didn’t check what she had sent, Watson claimed.

He said that there never was an official contract for the national rollout because the budgetary circumstances would not permit it and the health minister at the time, Mark Scotland, had persistently refused to put the commitment to it in writing. But Watson claimed that it had always been the intention to have a national implementation, otherwise AIS would never have entered into the deal in Cayman in the first place.

Explaining away what the crown claims is overwhelming evidence that he and Webb, his close friend and business partner in numerous ventures, were the beneficial owner of AIS, Watson denied being an owner of the company or receiving any payment from the firm. He said the minister had appointed him as the point of contact for AIS and when Webb, who was supposed to be the local partner, moved to the US, he had to deal with the problems and difficulties surrounding the contract. Watson implied that Webb lost interest, and as someone who paid little attention to detail, he was not managing his financial affairs with care and was using the AIS account to pay debts.

Going through a list of payments made from the AIS account to him via his various business bank accounts, Watson said that several of them were for money Webb owed for work on his Cayman and Atlanta homes by a construction company Watson owned with his father.

He said it was Webb who had wanted to invest in his fuel distribution company, not, as he had originally told the police, Josclyn Morgan, whom the crown says was a shame director of AIS Cayman. He said this accounted for a number of payments, including the initial investment and then Webb’s agreement to share the losses with him in the failed business.

Watson said he had only been able to piece together explanations for the transactions after the crown gave him access to Webb’s bank account details as part of the disclosure obligations.

He talked at length on the stand about the various problems with the introduction of the payment system and the major disputes between the head of AIS in Jamaica, Doug Halsall, and the CINICO boss, Lonny Tibbetts, which almost resulted in the collapse of the contract. Watson said he was the one that helped the project stay on track.

Watson claimed that, at the direction of the health minister and from the very beginning, he had been the liaison and the man who brokered the deals and the peace with AIS because it was all about making the CarePay system work, as it was seen as the only answer to the hospital’s bad debt problems. As a result, he did everything he could to keep everyone happy.

He also said that Halsall had offered him a job with the firm, which was why he had documents and spreadsheets on his computers that related to revenue and financial projections of AIS. He said that despite the generous offer, the minister begged him to stay on the HSA board so he turned down the job. However, before he refused the offer he had considered it, which was why he said he set up an offshore company in BVI called AIS Consulting.

The case continues.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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