CarePay trial: Defense: Witnesses brought to police interview by gov't minister

No contract for US$2.4 million spend, Crown alleges

What was described as a surprise police interview conducted with three civil servants during the CarePay contract investigation last year was arranged by a Cayman Islands government minister, defense attorneys suggested during testimony Friday.  

Defendant Canover Watson’s attorney, Trevor Burke, QC, raised the issue during cross-examination of a prosecution witness. Mr. Burke said the three civil servants were contacted and told to attend the October 2014 meeting.  

Health Ministry senior policy adviser Janett Flynn testified that she was contacted by ministry chief officer Jennifer Ahearn, who told her that “Minister Archer wanted to meet us in person.” The meeting was attended by Ms. Flynn, Ms. Ahearn and ministry chief financial officer Nellie Pouchie, Mr. Burke said.  

“Police officers were brought into the room to speak with you?” Mr. Burke asked. “Mr. Archer took you there and indicated the police wanted to speak to you… you had no prior warning of it?”  

Ms. Flynn said she was told by Ms. Ahearn that the meeting was about the “CarePay contract,” but she was unaware police were in attendance until she arrived. “You found yourself in the same room as the minister and two policemen,” Mr. Burke said.  

Ms. Ahearn and Mr. Archer are expected to be witnesses later in the trial.  

It was the second time in as many days that Mr. Burke introduced the element of local politics into the trial of Watson and his co-defendant Miriam Rodriguez. Watson is charged in six counts alleging he sought to use his former position as chairman of the Health Services Authority Board to direct the CarePay deal to a local company he and business partner Jeffrey Webb controlled through “sham” frontmen directors. Webb is also charged in the case, but is not on trial now. 

Watson and Rodriguez are also accused of transferring criminal property, namely proceeds of the CarePay contract, a contract from which Watson is alleged to have personally benefited in the amount of US$348,000.  

In trial testimony Thursday afternoon, another Crown witness, former Health Services Authority Information Technology director Dale Sanders was questioned about a meeting he had in Washington, D.C., during the summer of 2013.  

Mr. Burke said that two other current government ministers, Moses Kirkconnell and Osbourne Bodden, met with Mr. Sanders in Washington and discussed certain events surrounding the CarePay contract, which was awarded in December 2010. Mr. Sanders also testified that the three discussed the IT expert’s interest in continuing to assist the government with its healthcare strategy.  

Mr. Burke suggested Mr. Sanders had received a consultancy contract from the Cayman Islands government during the current administration, after his previous one ended in September 2012. Mr. Sanders said he “couldn’t recall” that.  

“You can’t recall how much [you were paid]… you can’t recall when?” Mr. Burke asked  

“I can’t recall being paid by Mr. Bodden,” Mr. Sanders said.  

“When was the last payment you received from any government institution on these islands?” Mr. Burke asked. 

“I’d have to look at my bank account records,” Mr. Sanders said.  

There was no further testimony during Friday’s court proceedings regarding the consultancy contract that Mr. Burke suggested was entered into.  

Contract for US$2.4M?  

In August 2011, a payment of US$1.2 million was made by the Cayman Islands government into the account of a company called AIS [Advanced Integrated Systems] Cayman Ltd.  

Jurors heard Friday that the payment was said to be part of a US$2.4 million agreement between the Ministry of Health and the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority. The HSA was to receive the cash from the ministry and pay it to AIS Cayman Ltd., jurors heard.  

AIS Cayman, the Crown alleged, was controlled by Webb and Watson through intermediaries.  

The US$2.4 million was paid in order to expand the use of the CarePay hospital patient swipe card system to private sector insurance companies and healthcare facilities. That expansion never occurred, and during 2011, HSA Chief Executive Lizzette Yearwood noted in an email that, as far as she was aware, no contract existed for the payment of such a sum. 

During testimony Friday, Mr. Burke said this was the result of “confusion” between the Health Ministry and the HSA as to who was supposed to be paying for a project that had already been budgeted by government for the 2011/12 financial year. Mr. Burke said government had already allocated that cash in July 2011, and it was approved to be spent in three stages by both former Health Minister Mark Scotland and the ministry’s chief officer. 

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran said during the trial’s opening statements that ministry officials were duped into believing the CarePay system expansion had been a part of the initial contract for the system that was signed by government in December 2010. He alleged that Watson did this by sending “doctored” copies of the original contract to the Ministry of Health in August 2011.