Lawyers urge leniency for Watson and Blake

| 17/03/2023 | 78 Comments
Canover Watson and Bruce Blake guilty of money laundering in the Cayman Islands, Cayman News Service
Canover Watson (left) and Bruce Blake

(CNS): Attorneys representing Canover Watson (52) and Bruce Blake (51) urged leniency for their clients on Thursday as they argued that the convictions against the two men in a football-related fraud were not the most serious crimes of their kind, as prosecutors had contended. Watson is facing a potentially long sentence after he was convicted of several offences, including money laundering. But Blake’s lawyer pressed the judge for a suspended sentence, despite the crown’s argument that he should also go to jail.

Following lengthy arguments before Chief Justice Margaret Ramsay-Hale about the need to balance punishment with rehabilitation and the circumstances of the crime with the circumstances of the men, the judge adjourned the case and bailed Watson and Blake for a further week. She said a date would be determined later for when she would deliver the sentencing ruling because the submissions were impactful and she needed time to consider them carefully.

Eloise Marshall KC, who represented the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in the twelve-week fraud case involving both the Cayman Islands Football Association and the regional body, CONCACAF, argued that the fraud was serious, sophisticated, protracted and had caused significant harm to the jurisdiction.

She said there were no mitigating circumstances, with the exception of Blake’s previous good character. However, she detailed a long list of what she said were aggravating factors, from the breach of trust committed by the men, who were at the time both executives with the football bodies, to Watson’s attempts to blame others.

Marshall urged the court to consider consecutive sentencing for Watson and told the court that the custody threshold was clearly passed in the case against Blake. She stressed the damage to the reputation of the Cayman Islands in this case and its cross-border elements.

This is an issue that has also been raised by the government as it waits for a decision by the Financial Action Task Force to take this jurisdiction off its grey list. In light of concerns about Cayman’s prosecution record for money laundering, officials have indicated, albeit indirectly, that the conclusion of this case could help get the jurisdiction removed from the list.

Last month, Financial Services Minister André Ebanks said that the authorities here must demonstrate that successful and effective money laundering cases have been dealt with from start to finish. This case is the only conviction the crown has secured for that crime where a sentence is currently outstanding.

While Marshall said that this fraud was a high category of offending, Watson’s lawyer, Dapinder Singh KC, told the court that in the grand scheme of things, it was very easy to think of many global cases that were far more serious than this and it was not the worst type of offending when it comes to fraud nor was it particularly sophisticated.

One of the charges that Watson was found guilty of was the serious offence of money laundering. However, the first crime charged in this case, which all of the other charges stemmed from, was not theft but ‘secret commissions’, which carries a maximum of five years in jail.

The crown’s case is that Watson falsified invoices for football equipment worth around $1.5 million, which CONCACAF paid, but Watson and the various shell companies he set up did not supply the full goods. The money laundering charges relate to his efforts to clean up the ill-gotten gains from the fraud.

Given his role in the CarePay scandal, which led to convictions for what the crown said were similar offences, Watson is facing a double-digit sentence.

However, Singh urged the court to balance deterrence and punishment with the need to rehabilitate Watson and help him remain crime-free, as he has been since these offences were committed more than a decade ago.

He said Watson was already a ruined man and he should receive a “just and proportionate sentence” in line with the guidelines and the general principles relating to the totality of a sentence where several offences are committed at the same time. He also urged the court not to double count the aggravating circumstances claimed by the crown.

Meanwhile, Cairns Nelson KC argued on behalf of Blake that he had played only a secondary role in the crime and was not motivated by money when he assisted his now estranged friend, Watson. He said Blake was not aware of the full extent of the fraud and while he had been convicted of false accounting, he had been acquitted by the jury of money laundering.

Nelson said that there was “room for mercy” and the judge could “achieve justice” where his client was concerned with a suspended sentence. He pointed out that Blake has no previous convictions, and his generous financial support of CIFA during this period and since then shows he was not motivated by personal gain.

Both Watson and Blake continue to deny they have committed any crimes. As a result, the court heard that neither man was credited with showing any remorse.


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Category: Courts, Crime

Comments (78)

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  1. Anon says:

    They both had it all, and bright futures too. But their greed ruined their + others lives. While depriving kids of a clean sport.
    And still they claim innocence. They knew the laws and they broke them. Hope their lawyers charge them plenty too.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Watson is facing a potentially long sentence after he was convicted of several offences, including money laundering.

    Read the last three words above again, a few times if necessary.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The mere fact this has such great reputational damage to the Cayman Islands, these men should be given the higher end of the sentencing guidelines. They both were professionals, very knowledgeable, as such they should be held to that duty of care and ethics. Mr. Blake’s excuse of ignorance is unbelievable.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    They are an embarrassment to Cayman. They have taken so much FROM the country now take one FOR the country: get a long custodial sentence that is significant enough to demonstrate this country takes money laundering seriously.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Except it wasn’t really money laundering was it? Hiding the proceeds of your own fraud is not in the same league as washing money wholesale for other crooks, drug cartels, crooked politicians, oligarchs and terrorists. But awfully convenient to pretend it is and chalk one up for the FATF rather than deal with all the dirty money washing through our economy.

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  5. Dtfp@yahoo.com says:

    Give them the maximum – deport their asses at the end of their time – never to return to the Cayman Islands. I am sick and tired of these D…m Jamaican scammers!
    They don’t deserve to live amongst us.
    Cayman deserve better.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Shame that these 2 were already hugely successful in their lives and careers, and that they moved into corrupt and criminal activities without blinking and eye, and with no concern for the integrity that their professions demanded. Its fair to say they had the power and influence to turn things in their favour, to the disadvantage of others, and worse still, deny any wrongdoing. Maximum sentence please, no time off for good behavior, and let them rot in hell – to be joined by corrupt Jeff if ever he is let go by the feds. No sympathy for any of them.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    The sad part is that both men had good paying jobs and was living the life without FIFA. They saw the opportunity and couldn’t resist the temptation.

    Admit your guilts, get your slap on your wrists, learn from the experience and move on.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    I think Bruce has paid a heavy price already, he is genuinely good guy, maybe a little too nice. Throw Canover back in with the other fish.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    These two should face the appropriate punishment from the justice system of this country. Of course their VIP buddies who escaped getting caught are now well entrenched with the PACT Govt enjoying access, influence, and bloated remuneration on Boards of various Public Authorities.

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    • Anonymous says:

      It’s the Cayman way!!!!! It might be more beneficial to put the whole bunch of thieves in the slammer for a few decades. A l-o-n-g, long time! Does anyone reading this like thieves?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Amen could not have said it any better .Dont forget the private jet passengers and Hublot watches and those concubines. The untouchables and the political elite very Cozy with pact Jeff Boyz & Girlz still running tings bout ya !

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    • Campbell Soup says:

      That’s some good points & observation. They must think people’s memories are short or we’d simply forgot and move on to the next snake. Ha! We’re keeping our eyes fully open and on targets.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    We want Jeff.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    i thought they were just providing ‘financial services’….

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  12. Anonymous says:

    caymanians and money laundering???…..never!

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  13. Anonymous says:

    So if myself and my accomplice robbed a bank for $1.5m in the middle of the night not harming anyone should I justify the action by it not being a serious crime ? White collar, blue collar, apply the sentences equally 🚓

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    • Anonymous says:

      No, just get a judge who is your friend and it can be called “Deception” , just like the guy who got caught trying to steal from developers who trusted him.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Watson, as a convicted recidivist, should not be eligible for any sentencing leniency.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Think to qualify as a recidivist he would have had to commit the second crime after being punished for the first. He just committed several crimes at the same time.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    A fish rots from the head. FIFA is a criminal enterprise, and until that has been effectively dismantled, the continental, regional, and local leaders will always follow the example of their leader(s).

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    • Anonymous says:

      So Watson and Webb are innocent because the big bad man heading FIFA made them steal..?

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      • Anonymous says:

        correct, they were suffering from the brain tumor like so many other criminals!

      • Anonymous says:

        No, Watson and Webb were promoted because Jack Warner recognized them as exactly what they are, long before they got the first opportunity to steal anything.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    I’d settle for a ban on leaf blowers

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  17. Anonymous says:

    An accountant and lawyer that have both brought shame on their respective professions. Throw the book at them. Our jurisdiction is based on trust we cant have it any other way.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Dear Judge, corruption in high places is as bad as thieving, burglary, and mayhem in low places. We all need a message that the Cayman courts are serious about serious crimes. Lock them up for a while.

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  19. Bob says:

    Good judgement is the result of experience and experience is the result of bad judgement. Let’s just say these two are VERY experienced.

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  20. Chris Johnson says:

    CIFA employed three firms of auditors. Did they turn up? Did anyone investigate their work.? Yes I did. It fell far short of international standards. The clubhouse was in the accounts at CI$750,000 .Yet planning department shows cost was to be about CI$180,000. The accounts show a cost of CI$500 per square foot. I hope this gets investigated as well as the total cost of the pitch.
    Now try getting up to date accounts of this NPO. You cannot do it. So much for transparency.

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  21. Anonymous says:

    It’s all cushtee when you’re gliding at the top, – lock them up, liars & crime deniers

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  22. Anony says:

    Not only have these two men additionally sullied the reputation of Cayman, they have also ruined themselves but, most egregious of all, they have ruined their families. I have seen first hand the devastation wreaked upon the parents of one of these men – he single handedly ruined them emotionally, mentally and financially, even to the point of stealing from them, all to satisfy his greed and desire for social standing.

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  23. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t the problem here the fact that boh Watson and Blake continue to deny that they have committed any crimes? It would seem that they might not be entitled to any discounts because they have not shown any remorse.

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  24. Anonymous says:

    If you can do the crime you can do the time.

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  25. Anonymous says:

    Do no pass go. Do not collect $200.

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  26. Anonymous says:

    While these two deserve to ‘pay the piper’ of justice, what riles me is that the mastermind of ALL CIFA’s thefts of football funds, Jeff Webb, continues to enjoy freedom in luxury by postponing his sentencing in the USA!

    I really hope that Cayman’s legal authorities NEVER put aside Jeff’s alleged crimes in Cayman. so that when the US authorities are through with him, he will face justice here!!

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  27. Anonymous says:

    Just give them a warning and let them off because they are truly good local men who have the beet interest of the Cayman Islands at heart. This is just all a witch hunt anyways.

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