Court hears of CarePay cash envelopes ‘handed out’ to Webb
Cayman Islands businessman Canover Watson, with help from his friend Jeffrey Webb and former personal assistant Miriam Rodriguez, used a company he and Webb set up to “defraud public bodies of large amounts of money” jurors heard in the first day of what’s likely to be a two-month-long corruption trial involving the 2010 awarding of a public hospital contract.
The alleged fraudulent activities took place over a three-year period between December 2010 and late 2013 and involve the transfer of large sums paid by the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority and the Cayman Islands National Insurance Company to a company, AIS Cayman Ltd., which prosecutors alleged Watson controlled while he served as chairman of the Health Services Authority board of directors.
It was further alleged that Watson and Webb worked together to create AIS Cayman Ltd. as the Caymanian-owned subsidiary that would receive profits from what became known as the CarePay swipe card system used by the public hospitals. The AIS Cayman company was created just a few months before the award of the CarePay contract in December 2010, jurors were told Monday.
Sums said to be profits from the CarePay contract were paid in both large checks and in cash envelopes that prosecutors allege were handled by Rodriguez. Prosecutors said the cash envelopes Rodriguez handled “appeared were to be handed out to Jeff Webb.”
Webb, a former FIFA official facing an unrelated criminal case in the U.S., will not be tried in this matter before the Cayman Islands Grand Court even though he has been charged in connection with it. However, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran told the court Monday that Webb’s involvement may be a matter for “another jury on another day.”
Calling the events surrounding the award and implementation of the CarePay contract a “sorry saga,” Mr. Moran said “numerous” other individuals had been involved in the award and implementation of the hospital swipe card contract, but that jurors were not being asked to determine whether their activities fell outside the law at this stage either.
“Well over $3 million in public money was paid out by HSA and CINICO as a result of [the CarePay] contract,” Mr. Moran said. “The tale which followed the signing of that contract is not a happy tale.”
Making an opening speech, which Mr. Moran expected could last up to three days, he laid out the developments in the early days that led to the creation of AIS Cayman Ltd. and another company in which Watson and Webb were allegedly involved, the W Group.
The Crown highlighted the close business and personal relationship that existed between Watson and Webb in their dealings. Mr. Moran said the two “were like brothers.”
The W Group, which was to “feature heavily in the CarePay contract investigation,” was established following a March 2010 Memorandum of Understanding agreed by Watson and a Delaware Corporation known as Turner International.
“The W Group was lined up to receive a large portion of money paid out by the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority and CINCIO on the back of the CarePay scheme,” Mr. Moran said.
Mr. Moran detailed discussions of a meeting held between Cayman Islands public health officials on Aug. 11, 2010 during which Jamaican businessman Douglas Halsall and other representatives of a company known as AIS [Advanced Integrated Systems] Jamaica made a presentation of their hospital swipe-card system.
The system was touted as a “real-time” patient information system that could track charges for health services at the point which they were made. To participate in the system, hospital patients needed to obtain a swipe card, similar to a credit card, they could use at public health facilities.
A week after that meeting, Webb and Watson both participated in email discussions that referred to the creation and incorporation of a local company that was to be developed as the partner for AIS Jamaica in the swipe-card system, prosecutors said.
In addition, Watson sent a letter to then-Cayman Islands Health Minister Mark Scotland on Aug. 18, 2010 asking the minister to approve the creation of a technical committee to evaluate the Jamaican company’s proposals for the swipe card system.
Mr. Watson proposed he would chair that committee along with several other prominent local health officials. Mr. Scotland approved the proposal, prosecutors said.
There was no evidence, prosecutors said, that other members of the evaluation committee or former Minister Scotland knew of Watson’s interests or activities in setting up AIS Cayman Ltd. at that time.
The overall course of conduct revealed two important points, Mr. Moran said.
First, that Webb “intended to personally benefit” from any business given to AIS. Second, and more importantly, that Watson, the chairman of the Health Services Authority at that time, “was well aware of it.”