Two months of testimony in a prosecution that called more than two dozen witnesses can be boiled down to a concept that a Cayman Islands Grand Court justice called “dead easy,” jurors in the criminal trial of Canover Watson heard Tuesday.
“[Conspiracy] is simply an agreement to commit a criminal offense,” Justice Michael Mettyear said during his summing up of the case, which started testimony on Nov. 23, 2015.
“The crux of this case is that this was a conspiracy between these two men, [Jeffrey] Webb and Watson.”
Two of the six criminal counts in the indictment filed against Watson allege that he, Webb and unnamed “others” conspired to defraud the Cayman Islands government, bilking it out of what amounted to millions of dollars over the CarePay public hospital swipe-card contract. It was a scheme that prosecutors allege Watson directed as former chairman of the Health Services Authority board of directors.
For the first two counts of the indictment, Justice Mettyear said that the Crown had to prove there was such a conspiracy involving dishonest acts and that Watson was involved. The alleged conspiracy does not have to involve a formal agreement, the judge cautioned jurors, merely a “nod and a wink.”
In the first count, the Crown had to prove that the CarePay system’s local contractor, AIS (Advanced Integrated Systems) Cayman Ltd., had been formed in a way to disguise the involvement of Watson and Webb, and that the two had “adjusted” the cost proposal for the contract upward in late 2010. The charge also alleges they provided bogus records to Fidelity Bank to set up the AIS Cayman account.
If the prosecution proves any of those three elements, the judge said, jurors must find Watson guilty. If it does not prove any of the three, then jurors must find him not guilty, the judge said.
The standard of proof required is the same for count 2 of the indictment, the judge said, only that count relates to the US$2.4 million proposed expansion of the CarePay system to private sector healthcare providers. In that instance, court testimony showed US$1.8 million was paid for the expansion which never happened.
Conflict of interest
The third count in the indictment against Watson is one of which jurors were advised to “be careful” by Justice Mettyear.
This allegation is that Watson failed to disclose that he had a personal interest, or that the company he and Webb owned, The W Group, had an interest in the decision of the Health Services Authority board to award the CarePay contract to AIS Cayman and its Jamaican partners. However, the “conflict” that must be proved is a very specific legal definition, the judge said, not what jurors themselves might perceive to be a conflict.
Watson’s attorneys argued that he did not disclose any personal interest in the AIS/CarePay contract because he didn’t have any. Prosecutors allege that he did.
“We know that he received an awful lot of money that came from AIS, but it is the defense case that it was either repayment of loans or that it was money he was being paid back,” Justice Mettyear said.
Count 4 of the criminal indictment alleges fraud on the government by Watson as a result of the conspiracy to defraud entered into by himself, Webb and others.
Justice Mettyear pointed out that initially Watson was accused of taking about US$348,000 in what amounted to kickbacks from the CarePay scheme he allegedly directed. Later in the trial, as more evidence emerged from USB portable drives for computers found at Watson’s former place of employment, that amount rose to more than US$417,000.
Whatever the true figure, Justice Mettyear said it does not matter. What must be proved in this count is that Watson received the payments as a “reward” for his assistance procuring the five-year, US$13 million CarePay deal for AIS Cayman and its Jamaican partners.
“If you’re sure it was a reward, he’s guilty,” Justice Mettyear advised. “If you’re not sure, he’s not.”
Count 5 of the criminal indictment, money laundering, alleges five instances where the alleged proceeds of crime transferred from the government to the AIS account and then onward. If those transfers involved what jurors believe was fraudulently obtained CarePay funds and if they believe Watson knew they were fraudulently obtained at the time, they should find him guilty on this count, the judge said.
However, if they believe Watson did not know the funds were derived from criminal acts or if they determine those acts were not criminal in the first place, he should be found not guilty, Justice Mettyear said.
Breach of trust
The final count concerns whether jurors believe Watson committed a breach of trust in connection with his duties as a public officer, the chairman of the HSA board.
To prove this charge, jurors must find that Watson’s conduct marked a “serious departure” from what would have been expected from someone in his position, and that he used his public office other than for the public good.
The breach of trust was committed, the Crown alleges, in relation to the following acts:
That Watson failed to disclose he and Webb were assisting AIS Cayman and its Jamaican partners in the bid for the hospital swipe-card contract.
That Watson failed to disclose he and Webb were controllers and beneficiaries of AIS Cayman.
That Watson failed to disclose he and Webb were shareholders and beneficiaries of The W Group.
That Watson failed to disclose that he, Webb and others intended to set up a pharmacy in Cayman that would also benefit from the CarePay contract.
That Watson failed to disclose a share holding in a British Virgin Islands company, AIS Consulting Ltd., which was intended to benefit from the expansion of the CarePay contract to the private sector healthcare providers and insurers.
That Watson failed to disclose his directorship in another company, CRW Holdings, which was doing business with AIS Cayman Ltd.
If the jury is sure Watson did any of the six acts alleged above and that those acts go far beyond what would normally be expected of someone in his position, then the judge said he should be found guilty. Only one of the six acts must be determined to be a “serious departure” for this charge to be accepted, the judge said.
Mix and match
Justice Mettyear indicated that it is possible jurors could end up finding Watson guilty on some counts of the indictment and not guilty on others. Similarly, he could be found guilty on all six charges, or not guilty on all six, but the judge said the charges do not necessarily depend on one another in all cases.
He urged the six women and one man on the panel to consider each count based on the evidence they heard during the trial.
“Don’t just lump them all together,” he said. “You can mix and match and you should do that based on the view of the evidence.”
Justice Mettyear said he expects to finish his summing up of the evidence on Wednesday and that the jury would begin deliberations later that day.