Forward Sport rep confused by Watson’s companies

| 16/08/2022

(CNS): The key witness in a fraud case against football executives Canover Watson and Bruce Blake told the jury he was confused by the companies that Watson created, for which he was named as a partner, as part of the deals to sell football equipment. Shakeel Khawaja, who was a sales manager for Forward Sports PVT in Pakistan, a manufacturer of sports gear, said he knew nothing about invoices totalling over US$1.5 million, which the crown says are false and were used by Watson to steal from CONCACAF.

As he gave evidence from Germany via video link, Khawaja described through a translator how his business dealings with Watson had begun. He said he met Watson and Blake in 2012 at the FIFA Congress in Hungary and then again at the London Olympics, where he had started a business relationship and believed there was an opportunity for him to supply sports equipment to the regional associations, including CIFA, CONCACAF and the Caribbean Football Union and its members.

Khawaja said Watson had promised him $1 million in potential orders for grassroots football programmes, which he was more than happy to supply.

He explained that when he first came to the Cayman Islands, Watson handed him documents for a Cayman-based Forward Sports company in his name that he hadn’t authorised. The jury was shown various documents, including the minutes of this company’s first board meeting, which said that Khawaja was present. However, the witness said he was not there.

Khawaja said he was confused by the various companies that, according to the crown, Watson set up in Panama in order to carry out the fraud against CONCACAF. He said the companies were confusing because the names being used were all variations on Forward Sports using “Inc.” or “Ltd” or “International”.

Khawaja said that he had discussed the possibility of creating a Cayman-based Forward Sports company to represent the Pakistan-based company’s interest in the Caribbean, but they had never agreed on how they would do that. He said he was also not happy when he realised that Watson had moved ahead to create these confusing companies.

He told the jury that he was not aware until the Anti-Corruption Commission investigators came to call that Watson was the other shareholder. He said he thought Watson merely represented the beneficial owner of Green Day Foundation, the listed partner in the company, and not, as the crown contends, that company’s actual owner.

Khawaja said he had in the past owned a sports agency and created another one with a football enthusiast in Switzerland to sell Forward Sports goods in Europe, but neither of those companies had been very successful. He said he did not know much about setting up these holding companies or how they worked.

Asked about the three invoices at the centre of this fraud case billed by one of the companies created by Watson that listed him as a shareholder, Khawaja said he knew nothing about them. He told the court that the soccer balls, shirts, bibs and goals on the invoices billed to CONCACAF had not been supplied by the real Forward Sports in Pakistan and it had not been paid the $1.54 million. “I would have liked to have that money,” he said.

While his signature appeared to be on various documents, he said he did not sign them.

Khawaja said he had a genuine business relationship with Watson, who had helped broker a deal with CONCACAF for soccer equipment worth around $625,000 from the factory in Pakistan that he represented. That kit was delivered and paid for.

However, the other three 2013 invoices for $750,000, $148,000 and $642,000, which included excessive amounts of equipment, were not placed through him, the witness said. He maintained he had not drafted the invoices, placed the orders or even been aware of their existence.

The case continues.

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