Cayman Islands police investigators looking into fraud and money laundering allegations against a prominent local businessman are probing two cash payments prosecutors have connected to the case, at least one of which was withdrawn from an account at Fidelity Bank, the Cayman Compass has learned.
Canover Watson faces 10 charges in Cayman Islands Grand Court for which he is due to stand trial in November, including six charges for alleged money laundering. Watson’s former personal assistant, Miriam Rodriguez, also faces two charges of money laundering in the Grand Court and a November trial date.
The money laundering allegations against Rodriguez relate to separate amounts totaling US$25,000 and US$30,000 that she is accused of handling on behalf of Watson.
The money laundering charges allege that in June and July 2012, Mrs. Rodriguez possessed “criminal property” that represented, either directly or indirectly, the benefits of criminal conduct totaling US$55,000.
According to information obtained by the Compass from a number of sources familiar with the investigation, the first cash payment of $25,000 was collected at Fidelity Bank on Grand Cayman in late June 2012. The cash was taken in an envelope to local financial services company Admiral Administration and left with Rodriguez, it is alleged.
The second payment of US$30,000 came in early July 2012 from a check drawn on an account at Fidelity Bank, the Compass has learned. The check was cashed and, again, an envelope taken to Admiral, where it was left for Rodriguez to handle, it is alleged.
The allegation in the charges against Rodriguez is that while working at Admiral Administration, she 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 court records was not connected with Admiral Administration. AIS – Advanced Information Systems [Cayman] Ltd. – is a company in which Watson had a substantial beneficial interest, according to Crown prosecutors, and to which multimillion-dollar healthcare-related contracts were awarded while he served as chairman of the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority board of directors.
The money laundering charges against Watson relate to a total of US$169,000 and cover the period from Dec. 30, 2010 to June 2012. The charges are brought under the Proceeds of Crime Law. He is also charged with failing to disclose a pecuniary interest, breach of trust, fraud on the government, and conflict of interest.
The charges relate to a period during which Watson approved and signed the contract for the Cayman Islands’ public healthcare patient swipe-card payment system – known as CarePay – and a second contract for a computerized pharmaceutical tracking system.
The Compass contacted Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions relative to the investigation this week. Each declined to comment on the status of the investigation.
The Compass also contacted Fidelity Bank Managing Director Brett Hill in September 2014 with a number of questions regarding the CarePay investigation and, to date, he has not responded. Follow-up questions sent to representatives of Fidelity Bank on Wednesday indicated that Mr. Hill was not on island.
Fidelity Bank in the Cayman Islands was named last week in U.S. federal court indictments as having been involved in two separate transactions relating to bribe payments funneled to FIFA officials in exchange for those officials giving certain sports marketing companies the commercial rights to football tournaments. Cayman’s Jeffrey Webb, who is alleged to have received millions of dollars in those bribes, worked at Fidelity until 2012, when he became the president of CONCACAF (FIFA’s regional governing body for the Caribbean and North and Central America).
The bank’s parent company, Fidelity Group, said in a statement Tuesday that it had called in external experts to assist with the review of the transactions referred to in the indictment. Fidelity Group CEO Anwer Sunderji said in the statement: “Licensed institutions are required to report suspicious activity and we are satisfied that the bank discharged its duty with respect to the specific transactions. The bank is not aware of any allegations against it, but has been cooperating in full accordance with its responsibilities with regulators and other government authorities, and will continue to do so.”
Premier Alden McLaughlin issued a statement Wednesday that indicated Cayman would take a “zero tolerance approach” to criminal activity in the Cayman Islands.