Two top-level Cayman Islands football officials who face separate criminal investigations related to bribery and corruption charges bought houses on the same street in Loganville, Georgia, within the past five years, the Cayman Compass has learned.
One of the homes is a three-story mansion valued at US$931,000 located at 2116 Adel Drive in the small town east of Atlanta. A swimming pool was built on the property with the proceeds of bribes funneled through several international bank accounts, front companies and intermediaries, U.S. federal prosecutors have alleged.
The 9,851-square-foot home, which is listed as having six bedrooms and eight bathrooms, is owned by Cayman Islands resident Jeffrey Webb and his wife, Atlanta-area physician Kendra Gamble-Webb, according to Rockdale County, Georgia, tax records. It is one of several properties Webb owns in the state of Georgia that are now potentially subject to asset forfeiture proceedings, according to federal court indictments issued last week.
Just three houses down from the Webb home, at 2128 Adel Drive, is a US$550,000 two-story, 7,694-square-foot home on 3 acres owned by suspended FIFA audit committee member and Cayman Islands businessman Canover Watson.
Watson, who is not charged in connection with the FIFA bribery scandal that led to the indictment against Webb and others last week, is facing a criminal trial in Cayman in November related to allegations that he used his former position as a member of the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority Board to enrich himself through the award of two public hospital contracts.
The two contracts, one for the installation of the hospital’s CarePay patient swipe-card system in 2010 and the other for the creation of a computerized pharmaceutical tracking system in 2011, were awarded while Watson was chairman of the Health Services Authority Board. It is alleged by Crown prosecutors in Cayman that Watson had a financial interest in the local branch of the company to which the contracts were awarded, an interest that he did not disclose.
The more wide-ranging U.S. federal indictment against nine current and former FIFA officials filed in the Eastern District of New York alleges that Webb solicited bribes totaling more than US$4 million in exchange for approving deals for the marketing and media rights to FIFA matches in the CONCACAF (Central and North American and Caribbean) region to select sports marketing firms. Webb is also accused of receiving at least some of the US$40 million in bribes paid to six FIFA officials in exchange for the rights to the Copa America and Centenario 2016 football tournament.
To date, the Cayman Islands and U.S. federal investigations against Watson and Webb, respectively, have not been linked.
Details from U.S. court records
U.S. federal court records allege that Costas Takkas, Webb’s attaché at CONCACAF who is also charged in the FIFA corruption probe, told a third party in 2012 that Webb wanted a US$3 million bribe in exchange for awarding commercial rights to certain 2018 and 2022 World Cup qualifying matches to a sports marketing company called Traffic USA.
It is further alleged that the bribe was split between two companies, Traffic USA and what is referred to as “Sports Marketing Company C”, so that each would pay US$1.5 million to Webb. It is further alleged that Traffic USA’s payment was transmitted to Takkas through a Miami bank to an HSBC bank in Buffalo, New York, and eventually transferred to an HSBC bank in Hong Kong.
The indictment alleges that two wire transfers totaling US$1 million were sent from Hong Kong to a correspondent account in New York City for credit to an account in the name of Kosson Ventures – a company controlled by Takkas – at Fidelity Bank in the Cayman Islands. The court records state that the remaining US$500,000 from Traffic USA was paid into another account controlled by Takkas at Fidelity Bank in the Cayman Islands.
“Takkas subsequently transferred the funds to an account in the name of a swimming pool builder at United Community Bank in Blairsville, Georgia,” the criminal complaint reads. “[This was] for the benefit of the defendant Jeffrey Webb, who was having a pool built at his residence in Loganville, Georgia.
“Takkas transferred another portion of the funds directly from his Kosson Ventures account at Fidelity Bank in the Cayman Islands to SunTrust Bank in Georgia for Webb’s benefit in connection with Webb’s purchase of other real estate in Stone Mountain, Georgia,” court records state. Federal prosecutors state that Takkas’s participation in the funds transfer was “more intermediary” in nature and was “designed to conceal the fact that Jeffrey Webb was the beneficiary of the payment.”
Alleged money laundering
Watson’s trial, set for November in the Cayman Islands Grand Court, will focus in part on money laundering allegations related to separate cash amounts, totaling US$30,000 and US$25,000, that his former personal assistant is accused of handling on behalf of her boss.
The charges allege that in June and July 2012, the assistant, Miriam Rodriguez, possessed “criminal property” that represented, either directly or indirectly, the benefits of criminal conduct totaling US$55,000. The allegation is that Mrs. Rodriguez, while working at local financial services company Admiral Administration, received cash in envelopes from “persons involved in AIS” and “forwarded it on to a third party without disclosing the same.”
The third party referred to, but not named, in the court records was not connected with Admiral Administration.
Watson previously served as managing director at Admiral.