‘I’m innocent’ claims Watson after week on stand

| 06/10/2022
Cayman News Service
Canover Watson

(CNS): Former local business leader and regional football executive Canover Watson told a jury that he was the innocent party in the prosecution’s $1.5 million football fraud case against him and his former CIFA and CONCACAF colleague, Bruce Blake. After a week giving evidence on his own behalf, Watson accused anti-corruption investigators of bias and the CIFA auditor of being a secret agent, and called a football kit supplier a thief. He claimed that he, on the other hand, was being wrongly prosecuted based on documents that were out of context and told only half the story.

The crown has accused Watson of a complex fraud in which he effectively stole over $1.5 million from the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) and that Blake, a former Maples lawyer, helped him launder the cash. The prosecution’s case is based very heavily on documents that the crown says consist of false invoices for football kit for teams across the region that was never delivered, complex company formations and forged sponsorship deals and loan agreements.

For more than a week on the stand, Watson went through thousands of documents that he claimed illustrated that what he was doing was legitimate football business. He denied that being an executive of CONCACAF, including holding a position on the treasury committee, presented a conflict of interest when he set himself up as a supplier of sports equipment to that football federation.

He said the crown’s case against him was full of gaps and that the investigators had deliberately ignored other documents that he said supported his position that he had done nothing wrong. Despite the exceptionally confusing structures, the mirrored names of existing businesses that he used to set up additional companies, and the lengths that the crown has said he went to in order to disguise his own role as a beneficial owner, Watson said that this was just how business was done.

Watson pointed the finger at Shakeel Khawaja, who was a genuine agent for Forward Sports, a major manufacturer of football equipment based in Pakistan, as the person who had stolen money. Watson had set up several companies with Khawaja, but earlier in the trial the sports supplier told the jury that he knew nothing about the invoices totalling US$1.5 million that were sent in the name of Forward Sports. Khawaja said he had never received any of that cash or even placed the orders for the actual kit with his manufacturers.

The crown has alleged that by using mirrored company names, Watson was taking money from CONCACAF for kit that was not needed and that never arrived, and that he had managed to get the invoices cleared by other senior executives in the regional football body and took the money for himself.

Watson has denied this and claimed that as a result of meetings, conversations and other emails that investigators had ignored, he had personal agreements with Khawaja and the equipment manufacturer, all of which were part of legitimate transactions. However, among the reams of documents shown to the jury since the trial began, Watson has not presented specific evidence explaining the exact business arrangement between himself and Khawaja.

Presented with accounts that appeared to conflict with his evidence, Watson dismissed the accusations of fraud by insisting that some documents that the crown claimed were invoices were for customs purposes or were pro forma. He said that some invoices had been split for shipping purposes. Watson also said accounts were calculated in different ways for various financial reasons and dates were changed on documents to enable invoices to fit CONCACAF’s budget cycles.

All of this, he maintained, was done at the direction of CONCACAF General Secretary Enrique Sanz as well as Watson’s once close friend and business partner, then CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb.

Watson said that the Anti-Corruption Committee was biased against him after the CarePay case, and claimed that he was innocent of the fraud charges in that case, regardless of his conviction. Watson was prosecuted in 2016 for fraud relating to a scheme where he and Webb were accused of creaming millions of dollars from the Health Services Authority in a card payment system he had sold to the hospital while he was chair of the HSA board.

He told the court that he had refused to answer the ACC investigators’ questions when he was arrested as they were the same investigators from the CarePay case and that was why there were so many gaps and missing documents in the crown’s case. He said they had chosen to ignore all of the evidence that showed what he was doing was perfectly legitimate.

He also claimed that Phillip Rankin, a partner of Rankin Berkower, CIFA’s auditors, was a secret agent for the ACC and was also working to protect Webb from potential investigation. According to the crown’s case, Rankin had reported to the ACC his concerns about loans/sponsorship agreements in the CIFA accounts that had raised red flags. The crown alleges that this money was related directly to the cash they say Watson scammed from CONCACAF and was laundered through the local football body.

Share your vote!

How do you feel after reading this?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Courts, Crime

Comments are closed.