CarePay trial: Minister Archer raised questions about swipe-card company

Ex-CINICO director refused to pay contract [*]

The former head of the Cayman Islands National Insurance Company said she was contacted last year by Finance Minister Marco Archer about the CarePay swipe-card contract for the local public hospital system. 

Former CINICO Managing Director Carole Appleyard testified Tuesday that shortly after that contact with Mr. Archer, she was interviewed by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, which was looking into the CarePay deal. According to police statements, Ms. Appleyard had expressed some concern that she was going to be arrested in connection with the case. 

She denied those concerns in trial testimony Tuesday, stating that she would simply rather “not have been involved” in the CarePay investigation. 

The police investigation has culminated in the criminal trial of former Health Services Authority board chairman Canover Watson and his personal assistant Miriam Rodriguez on charges that Watson defrauded the government and committed various offenses under the local Anti-Corruption Law. Watson and Rodriguez are also charged with transferring criminal property from the CarePay contract to Watson’s business partner Jeffrey Webb.  

Watson and Rodriguez have denied all charges. 

The Crown alleges that Watson and Webb formed a local company, AIS (Advanced Integrated Systems) Ltd., which was run by “sham” directors put in place by the two men in order to hide their personal interests in the business. Watson is alleged to have personally benefited by more than US$348,000 from healthcare contract awards he helped direct as HSA chairman. 

Potential concerns regarding the contract involving AIS Cayman Ltd. were brought to the public’s attention in June 2014 during a Legislative Assembly Finance Committee meeting in which Minister Archer demanded to know who the beneficial owners of AIS were and how much money the government was paying the company for its services. 

Watson’s attorney Trevor Burke, QC, asked Ms. Appleyard whether Mr. Archer had contacted her directly after those questions were raised in the House in June 2014. She said he had, asking her generally about “this AIS that was in the news.” 

Mr. Burke asked whether, during the course of this conversation, former Health Minister Mark Scotland’s name emerged. Ms. Appleyard said it had not. 

Mr. Burke asked whether Ms. Appleyard, after speaking to Mr. Archer, was later “summoned” to meet some police officers. She said that was correct. 

Mr. Burke, reading from a police report, stated: “The first comment you made when you were seen by the prosecuting authorities was ‘I could be prosecuted. I’m worried. I do not want to be prosecuted. I would rather not be involved.’” 

On the witness stand, Ms. Appleyard denied that she was afraid of prosecution “because I have spoken the truth.” She said she told police she would rather not have been involved in the case. 

AIS who?  

Ms. Appleyard raised questions early on about the first payment for the contract the Cayman Islands government awarded for the implementation of the CarePay swipe-card system, which was to provide real-time healthcare claims data for hospital patients. 

The veteran healthcare consultant said she supported real-time adjudication of patient claims as something long needed by local hospitals and health clinics. However, she noted that all negotiations on the CarePay deal she was aware of had been with a company called AIS Jamaica. 

When the contract came before local healthcare officials on Dec. 21, 2010, the companies named as the swipe-card system providers were Health Adjudication Systems of St. Lucia and a new entity called AIS Cayman Ltd. 

“I did not know who these companies were,” Ms. Appleyard said. 

The first payment of the CarePay contract, US$686,000, was paid entirely by the Health Services Authority after Ms. Appleyard refused to pay the contract. She left CINICO on Dec. 31, 2010, and other witnesses have testified that CINICO eventually reimbursed the HSA for the payment. 

The Crown has alleged that US$425,000 from the initial payment went to Jamaican businessman Douglas Halsall, who owned both AIS Jamaica and the St. Lucian company. Another US$200,000 went directly to Watson and Webb, prosecutors alleged. An additional US$50,000 in cash was withdrawn from the AIS Cayman Ltd. bank account, the Crown alleged, but it was not possible to determine who eventually ended up with that money.

[*] Editor’s note: Corrects sub-headline. Ms. Appleyard testified that she refused to pay the initial installment of the CarePay contract.