Defense says HSA board chairman was assisting hospital
Canover Watson personally collected and deposited a check for US$686,000 that represented the first payment for the implementation of the CarePay patient swipe-card system for the government hospital, jurors heard Tuesday in Watson’s criminal trial.
However, defense attorney Trevor Burke, QC, argued that Watson, the former chairman of the Health Services Authority board, was seeking to get things rolling to start the system and was asked to deposit the check by the head of the Jamaican company that owned the CarePay system.
Mr. Burke said his client, Watson, had been “criticized” by prosecutors for organizing and collecting checks that went into the bank account of a company called AIS (Advanced Integrated Systems) Cayman Ltd. That company, the Crown alleges, was controlled by Watson and his business associate Jeffrey Webb.
Mr. Burke sought to put the issue in a different light Tuesday during cross-examination of Health Services Authority Chief Executive Lizzette Yearwood.
He asked Ms. Yearwood whether she would have assisted in collecting and depositing the US$686,000 check if AIS Jamaica owner Douglas Halsall had requested her to do so, given the tight time lines for the project at the time the CarePay contract was signed.
Ms. Yearwood responded that she would have had staff do it for her, and that she would not have done it at the request of Mr. Halsall, only if the deposit was needed to assist the Health Services Authority.
“I would not have [deposited the check] personally,” she said.
But Mr. Burke argued that Ms. Yearwood did assist in “moving the CarePay contract forward” by agreeing that the Health Services Authority would pay the full amount due up front at the start of the contract and seek reimbursement for half of the US$686,000 from the Cayman Islands National Insurance Company once appropriate officials had returned to the island to authorize payment.
Mr. Burke said Ms. Yearwood would have “bought into the urgency” of implementing the CarePay contract in order to help collect hospital bills from patients that totaled about $1 million per month during 2010.
The lead defense counsel said during opening speeches at the trial last week that a number of high ranking officials in the Cayman Islands government were enthusiastic in their support for the AIS agreement and the CarePay contract. That support soured later on, he said, as technical problems with the system arose and questions started to be asked regarding who was behind AIS Cayman Ltd.
During testimony in the trial Monday afternoon, Ms. Yearwood was asked whether Watson disclosed to her any personal interests he might have held in AIS Cayman Ltd.
“Absolutely not,” she replied. “At one point in time, I spoke to him because it was rumored …”
At this point in the trial, Deputy Director of Prosecutions Patrick Moran stood up and indicated he did not wish Ms. Yearwood testifying to “rumors” before the court. Ms. Yearwood was not able to finish her answer to that question.
Mr. Moran asked whether Watson had ever disclosed any details of his financial benefit with regard to the CarePay contract or the company known as The W Group that prosecutors said he ran with Webb.
“No, sir,” Ms. Yearwood answered, adding that she also did not recall anything regarding AIS Consulting Ltd. – a company prosecutors said Watson had formed in the British Virgin Islands – being mentioned to her at the time.
Mr. Moran asked whether Ms. Yearwood was aware that Watson had “paid in” the US$686,000 check for the CarePay contract to the AIS Cayman Ltd. bank account. Ms. Yearwood replied that Watson had collected the check from the Health Services Authority.
“Is that normal, for a board chairman to collect a check for a company that’s contracted with the Health Services Authority?” Mr. Moran asked.
“No, sir,” Ms. Yearwood replied.