Watson’s lawyer challenges fake invoice allegation

| 10/08/2022
Cayman News Service
Canover Watson

(CNS): The attorney representing Canover Watson challenged the false invoice claims at the heart of the crown’s case against his client as he cross examined the prosecution’s first witness on Tuesday. David Cruz, CONCACAF’s financial chief, had confirmed the accusation that three invoices from Forward Sports for over $1.5 million worth of sports kit that was never needed or supplied were fake. But Dapinder Singh QC established that Cruz did not have access to all the documents linked to those invoices.

While testifying for the prosecution, Cruz had told the court that he had just started at CONCACAF, the regional football association, during the time of the alleged offences in 2013. He confirmed that it was CONCACAF General Secretary Enrique Sanz who cleared the invoices in question for payment and he had not challenged them.

Later on, when questions were raised about these invoices, they learned that most of the goods, including footballs and goals, had never been delivered, even though a great deal of money had been spent on them.

Cruz challenged the quality of some of the equipment supplied by the company. Even though he knew that company also made footballs for Adidas for tournaments, he said the kit from Forward Sports for the grassroots and youth programmes was not the same quality as CONCACAF normally expected, even though the goods were more expensive than other vendors.

Cruz confirmed that, despite the quality issues, the decision to use Forward Sports as the supplier for all the kit for football development programmes throughout the region had been made by Jeff Webb, the CONCACAF president at the time of the alleged fraud and Watson’s close friend and business partner. Cruz said he was told this was because the executives wanted consistency of branding for the programmes.

The false invoices are at the centre of the crown’s case against Watson. Prosecutors say that by creating these invoices, which were for tens of thousands of units of equipment that were never supplied, and getting them approved, Watson was able to siphon $1.5 million from CONCACAF. According to the crown, he laundered this money through various means, including offshore companies in Panama and the Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) bank account here in Cayman, with the help of his co-defendant in this case, Bruce Blake.

But Singh questioned Cruz about the make up of invoices, the different types of documents and other correspondence that accompanied them.

Cruz confirmed that, in addition to footballs being bought for grassroots programmes, Webb had given each of the regional general secretaries dozens of CONCACAF souvenir footballs around Christmastime in 2013 for them to distribute. He also accepted that decisions might have been made about supplies and suppliers that he did not know the details about, as he was not privy to every executive decision.

But he insisted that for the specific invoices in question, the goods were never supplied. Cruz also said that the three invoices from Forward Sports in Panama, which totalled more than $1.5 million and were paid on the instruction of Sanz, were never included in the budget for that year.

Cruz said that in his position as finance supervisor at the time, while he was not privy to all discussions or contracts at the executive committee level, he still saw a lot of documents since he was responsible for the audits. He said he should have seen all documents supporting payments.

But during cross-examination, he said that Sanz had never provided anything other than emails to support what he said were the false invoices other than instructions to pay them. Singh suggested that if he was shown a selection of documents that existed but he did not know about, he could “be quite wrong about your conclusion” that they are false invoices.

However, Cruz, who still works for CONCACAF and has since been promoted, stuck to his position that while he may not have seen supporting documents, the equipment had never been delivered. He also said that he had no idea that Watson, who served at the time on CONCACAF’s finance committee, was linked to the supplier, Forward Sports, and that he was emailing invoices to help things move along.

Cruz was followed by the crown’s second witness, Jonathan Martinez, CONCACAF’s head of professional football development, who had tried to find the equipment that CONCACAF was supposed to have purchased from Forward Sports.

He said that one of the three invoices that the crown maintains were fake was for 15,000 ushers’ vests for the 2013 Gold Cup, that were supposedly sent a week after the tournament started. He said that was excessive and 5,000 would have been more than they needed. But in any event, the vests were never found and he said he did not believe they ever existed.

The case continues.

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