Ex-FIFA vice president charged in local corruption case
Both the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and the U.S. Justice Department will seek to have former FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb returned to their jurisdiction to face criminal charges in separate investigations.
RCIPS officials working with Cayman’s Anti-Corruption Commission said Friday that they would begin extradition proceedings for Webb in Switzerland, after filing charges against Webb and his associate, Caymanian businessman Canover Watson, in connection with an investigation involving the awarding of a public hospital contract to a local company that prosecutors allege was controlled by Watson.
The U.S. authorities, meanwhile, filed an extradition request with the Swiss Federal Office of Justice last week seeking to have Webb returned to New York state, where he faces a 15-count federal court indictment on racketeering, money laundering and bribery charges.
For now, Webb remains in a detention facility in the Canton [County] of Zurich, Switzerland, where he and six other FIFA defendants charged in the U.S. probe have so far indicated they will fight extradition.
According to a press release issued Friday afternoon by the Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commission, both Watson and Webb have been jointly charged with two counts of conspiracy to defraud, contrary to common law, and with an additional count of breach of trust by a public officer, contrary to the Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Law. Section 13 of the Anti-Corruption Law states that a person “in connection with the duties of his office, [who] commits a fraud or breach of trust is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term of five years.”
In addition, Webb, Watson and Watson’s former personal assistant at local financial services company Admiral Administration, Miriam Rodriguez, were jointly charged Friday with one count of conspiracy to convert criminal property, contrary to the Cayman Islands Penal Code and the Proceeds of Crime Law.
Watson and Rodriguez are due to appear in court Tuesday to answer the additional charges against them.
An arrest warrant for Webb was issued Friday from the Cayman Islands.
The CarePay case
In addition to the charges filed against him Friday, Watson already faces 10 charges in the Cayman Islands Grand Court for which he is due to stand trial in November, including six charges for alleged money laundering. Rodriguez was already facing two charges of money laundering in the Grand Court and a November trial date as well. Both Watson and Rodriguez are due to appear in court Tuesday to answer the new charges against them.
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, 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 Cayman 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 was taken to Admiral, where it was left for Rodriguez to handle, it is alleged. Fidelity officials confirmed last month that Webb was employed at the Cayman branch of the bank as a consultant at the time these cash collections occurred.
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 announcement by the Anti-Corruption Commission Friday marks the first time Webb has been publicly linked to the hospital CarePay contract investigation in Cayman, but it is not the first time he has been linked to Watson both personally and professionally.
The Compass reported in early June that Watson sat on a three-person committee that evaluated bids for a US$15.5 million contract that now forms part of the U.S. investigation into alleged bribery and racketeering in world football’s governing body, FIFA.
The contract, according to U.S. federal court indictments, was for the commercialization rights to the 2013 version of the Gold Cup tournament and the 2013/14 and 2014/15 CONCACAF Champions League competitions. The indictment in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, alleges that the rights to those football games were sold to Traffic USA after then-CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb solicited US$1.1 million in bribe payments from the company, through an intermediary.
A press statement announcing the contract award for the tournaments was released on Nov. 27, 2012: “The multi-year agreement was reached after due process from the CONCACAF evaluation committee assigned to this bid comprised of Mr. Pedro Chaluja, Panamanian Football Federation President, Mr. Dan Flynn, general secretary of the U.S. Soccer Federation and Mr. Canover Watson, treasurer of the Cayman Islands Football Association, who evaluated all bids submitted.”
CONCACAF is FIFA’s regional governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean. Webb was elected its president in May 2012 and served until his “provisional dismissal” in late May, following revelations that he had been charged in U.S. federal court over a racketeering scheme that spanned 25 years, according to prosecutors. Webb has also been Cayman Islands Football Association president since 1991.
Watson, who is not charged or even named in the U.S. federal court indictment, served as a member of the CONCACAF region’s audit and compliance committee until he was relieved of his duties last year following charges filed against him in the CarePay investigation.
The two top-level football officials also bought houses on the same street in Loganville, Georgia, within the past five years. 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 looking into FIFA officials’ activities have alleged.
The 9,851-square-foot home, which is listed as having six bedrooms and eight bathrooms, is owned by 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 U.S. federal court indictments.
Just three properties 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 Watson.