Time short for Watson appeal

The deadline for Cayman Islands businessman Canover Watson to appeal his Grand Court conviction on five fraud and corruption-related charges is Friday.

According to the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal Law, a person convicted in the Grand Court is given 14 calendar days from the “date of conviction” in the relevant case to file an appeal. The date of conviction is defined in law as the sentencing date, which for Watson was Feb. 5.

Watson’s attorney was uncertain Monday as to whether an appeal of his client’s conviction on separate charges of conspiracy to defraud, fraud on the government, conflict of interest under the Anti-Corruption Law and breach of trust by a public official under the Anti-Corruption Law would be filed.

The Court of Appeal is allowed to hear challenges to Grand Court convictions that involve questions of law, questions of law and fact (with leave of the court) or appeals that involve an attempt to reduce the offenders’ sentence of imprisonment.

Watson began serving his seven-year term in Northward Prison earlier this month after a seven-person jury unanimously found him guilty on five of six charges against him. He was found not guilty on a sixth charge, that alleged money laundering in connection with a scheme that prosecutors said siphoned hundreds of thousands of dollars away from the CarePay public hospital swipe-card contract.

Watson, it was alleged, directed the scheme from his former position as chairman of the Health Services Authority’s board of directors.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Anti-Corruption Unit also obtained criminal charges against Watson’s business partner, Jeffrey Webb, in the scheme to defraud the hospital system. Webb, who is facing sentencing in June in connection with a separate criminal investigation into FIFA racketeering and bribery in the U.S., was not available to attend trial in Cayman.

The police are continuing to investigate various aspects of the CarePay case, but had not made any further arrests by press time Monday.

In pronouncing his sentence, Grand Court Judge Michael Mettyear, while acknowledging that Watson was not the only person involved in the conspiracy to defraud the government, said that Watson had played his part to the full extent.

Justice Mettyear even accepted that Webb may have been the leader of the conspiracy to skim profits from the public health system swipe-card contract, but he said that did not excuse Watson’s key role in the scheme. “I’m satisfied, of the two, you are the cleverer,” the judge said, referring to Watson.

Mr. Mettyear spoke directly to Watson while pronouncing his sentence: “The evidence against you was overwhelming. You conspired with Jeff Webb to steal money from the Cayman Islands government. You were able to succeed because of your position of power and trust as chairman of the Health Services Authority.”

Watson was sentenced to a concurrent seven years on each of the first two counts of the indictment, which alleged conspiracy to defraud. The additional three charges carried another three-year sentence, but all of the terms were ordered to run concurrently, which means Watson will spend a maximum of seven years in prison based on the court’s ruling.

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