Watson and Blake jailed in CIFA fraud case

| 19/04/2023 | 65 Comments
Canover Watson and Bruce Blake guilty of money laundering in the Cayman Islands, Cayman News Service
Canover Watson (left) and Bruce Blake

(CNS): Former CIFA and CONCACAF executives Canover Watson and Bruce Blake were both sent to jail by Chief Justice Margaret Ramsay-Hale on Wednesday, following their conviction in October last year in relation to a football fraud.

While Watson was handed an eight-year term, reflecting his leading role in the fraud and money laundering, Bruce Blake was jailed for two years for false accounting.

Although Blake’s lawyers had urged the court to suspend his time behind bars, and despite his previous clean record and other significant personal mitigation, the chief justice said the “gravity of the offending” warranted an immediate custodial sentence.

However, since Watson had been convicted of a long list of serious offences and had previously been convicted in relation to the CarePay case, there was never much doubt that he was facing a fairly long time behind bars, especially given the view the judge took about the level of harm caused and the culpability he had for the crimes he committed.

As a result, both men’s bail was revoked and they were taken into custody.

As she handed down the sentences, the chief justice noted the “disappointment” of the whole country for what the men had done. She said they were “the best of Cayman” and the “hopes of a nation” who had been community leaders but had squandered their potential. “We are so disappointed,” she added.

CJ Ramsay-Hale set out in detail the reasons for the prison time she had allocated to both men for each of the offences for which they were convicted. She also noted the aggravating factor of the impact of what they had done on the wider jurisdiction, the harm to the financial services sector and the breach of trust committed by both men.

The charges were that Watson had submitted $1.5 million worth of invoices to the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) for equipment that was either never supplied or was supplied at overinflated prices. He had partnered with a Pakistan-based manufacturing company to supply the gear but had also set up a number of shell companies using similar names, which were then used to launder the money.

Watson, with Blake’s help, was also accused of using the bank accounts of the Cayman Islands Football Association, for which he was treasurer at the time, to move the money through Cayman by creating loans to CIFA, which were then turned into sponsorship deals.

But following a lengthy and complex trial, there are still a number of unanswered questions surrounding the case, including the involvement of Jeffery Webb, a former FIFA VP and president of CONCACAF and CIFA, and CONCACAF general secretary Enrique Sanz, who were both found guilty of accepting huge bribes over competitions and sponsorship during the global FIFA scandal. Neither of them have been charged in this case.

Although the case against Watson was based on the idea that he had effectively stolen $1.5 million from CONCACAF through false invoices, he was not charged with theft but with secret commissions. CONCACAF never filed a complaint alleging that they had been a victim of theft, and it was Sanz who signed off on the invoices that Watson had presented.

But based on the idea that Watson, who was still at the time a close business associate of Webb, had defrauded CONCACAF, the crown’s case was that he then set about laundering the money by using offshore accounts based in Panama and, ultimately, the local CIFA accounts.

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Category: Courts, Crime

Comments (65)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Meanwhile, Canover approaches HMP Northward’s governor with a proposal for some new prison uniforms from Pakistan.

  2. Anonymous says:

    They stole millions $$ from poor football kids throughout the CONCACAF Region. From Canada and USA, to the Caribbean, Central America etc!
    Shameful. And Jeff Webb is even worse.
    Still hiding out

    • Anonymous says:

      A lot more is in Cayman, hope these two now sing as Jeff did for the US and let us really do just justice to those that benefited from illegal funds.

  3. Anonymous says:

    They would not have been able to do it in the first place, without the complacency of the Government. Hello!?

    How can a person just write a letter, and then have a million dollars delivered the next day?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ha Ha Ha.. DAH Wa ya get…

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hard to understand why they didn’t go directly to jail after the verdict. It was a sure thing they would get sentenced to jail, yet they get to wander around free for another six months. There was a risk they would run off. The judges need to get serious about their treatment of criminals.

  6. Anonymous says:

    and Cayman can now come off the grey list of AML!

    • NoName says:

      You’re funny in ho so many ways … Cayman will not come out of the lists until the whole financial industry has zipped the bags never to return. Already a lot of smart money has been moving to Singapore and other venues than Cayman…

    • Anonymous says:

      You wish! This is tokenism, like charging illegal gambling operators with money laundering their proceeds. Its a low scale, comparatively simple fraud, and one that had zero to do with the financial services sector. Successfully prosecute someone using Cayman vehicles for fraud or for laundering, or a high profile political corruption case, and you might get FATF’s attention. But turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

    • Anonymous says:

      let us hope that is enough!

  7. Anonymous says:

    there seem yo be a lot of private health facilities in cayman…which is good….. hhhmmm…hope they truly making profits….just saying….hhhmmm

  8. Anonymous says:

    i thought they were just offering ‘financial services’???

  9. Anonymous says:

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

  10. Anonymous says:

    They ran the opaque CIFA invoicing scam a second time with a South American equipment supplier – hurriedly demanding that National Teams return their Pakistani kits. Have the emails.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Bruces sentence should have bene suspended. Hes a good guy! and I believe him when he says he was used!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Watson and Blake you stole from children!

    You’re the worst of the worst!

    • Anonymous says:

      Hey look on the bright side, while they are in prison maybe they can organize the other prisoners into a football league and they can get entry fees from them. Maybe even organize a game against the guards like the longest yard movie!

  13. Anonymous says:

    How long shall this continue?!!! Woe be unto evildoers!

    • Anonymous says:

      My mind doesn’t work well sometime….. but similar scams have been around forever here in our little islands. This just happened to be some fairly large figures that were exposed. Many others get slipped under the rug.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Wasn’t Blake Maples’ CFO for 20 years or so?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thanks to the judge for being firm. Watson especially is a real slimy piece of work. The mess that CIFA has been through will set the territory back a generation or two. Well done dickheads.

  16. Anonymous says:

    These clowns will be back scamming soon enough. At least Canover got decent time, but 2 years for Blake? SMH.

    • Anonymous says:

      Watson is appealing and the Judge knew he would so therefore she failed in giving him an adequate sentence. He should have been jailed for 15 years considering this is he second go around.

      He and his family are all in denial!

    • Anonymous says:

      Probably will get to run the Cayman Department of Sports next!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Young Caymanian leadership at its finest. Someone should give Canover a prestigious award!

  18. Anonymous says:

    If they wanted less time they would have given us Jeff.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Wow. Stunned that justice was served. Stunned. The system here is so broken. I almost don’t believe it

  20. Anonymous says:

    Two years for Blake? That’s it? The Englishman got 3.5 and he paid it all back with interest. Definitely some racial bias at play here.


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