The administrative secretary of the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority board of directors delivered three checks issued for payments on the CarePay patient swipe-card system to the business offices of Canover Watson, the authority’s board chairman, jurors in Watson’s criminal trial heard last week.
The checks, issued in August and November 2011 and May 2012, were all paid to a company named AIS Cayman Ltd., the local partner of the Jamaican-St. Lucian firm that owned the CarePay card technology.
Crown prosecutors have argued in the criminal trial that AIS Cayman Ltd. was controlled by Watson and his business partner Jeffrey Webb through “sham” straw-men directors. Watson directed the award of the CarePay contract behind the scenes from his position as HSA chairman, prosecutors allege.
Watson’s attorney, Trevor Burke, QC, has argued that there was nothing sinister about HSA staff members taking checks to Mr. Watson’s business office at the fund services company formerly known as Admiral Administration. He said the secretary who delivered the checks, Angelee Beersingh, had delivered other checks for HSA contractors to their offices in the past.
During trial testimony last week, Ms. Beersingh said she was “instructed” to deliver the checks, the first on Aug. 30, 2011 totaling US$1.2 million, to Admiral Administration’s offices in downtown George Town.
“Who instructed you?” Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran asked.
“Mr. Watson,” Ms. Beersingh replied.
Ms. Beersingh testified that she would typically leave the checks for payment of the CarePay contract with Miriam Rodriguez, Watson’s personal assistant, who has also been charged with transferring criminal property.
Ms. Rodriguez’s attorney, Laurence Aiolfi, questioned Ms. Beersingh during the trial proceedings, but only to clarify how many checks she delivered to Admiral Administration and what dates they were delivered.
Mr. Burke asked Ms. Beersingh if she could recall delivering other checks for HSA services to Mr. Watson’s firm, including one for a local accounting company which had performed a review of HSA salary structures.
Ms. Beersingh said she thought she could remember delivering checks to that accounting firm in connection with the contract, but not to Admiral Administration.
In trial testimony later in the week, HSA Chief Financial Officer Heather Boothe said she recalled sometime in 2013 asking Watson directly if he had any personal interest in the affairs of AIS Cayman Ltd. or any other associated company.
“He said he had no interests,” Ms. Boothe said.
In cross examination of Ms. Boothe, Mr. Burke noted that as early as August 2010, prior to HSA signing the CarePay swipe-card contract, Ms. Boothe had written a draft letter to Watson in support of the system that she wanted the former board chairman to edit and pass on to then-Health Minister Mark Scotland.
Mr. Burke elicited that Ms. Boothe fully supported the concept of the CarePay card system, which was installed to assist the HSA in real-time verification of patient healthcare coverage and, hopefully, lessen the hospital’s accumulation of bad debt due to nonpayment.
“You were enthusiastic to investigate it further and so was everyone else?” Mr. Burke asked.
“Yes,” Ms. Boothe answered. “HSA would like to know eligibility information and patient benefit information [in real-time]. We don’t have a system that can give you that information readily.”
The trial testimony continued with other HSA officials, including procurement officer Lisa Bell and financial controller Salome Trinidad, appearing on Thursday afternoon. No open court testimony was heard on Friday.