Watson says he will seek legal aid

Convicted accountant needs money for lawyer

Canover Watson told a Grand Court judge Monday that he would ask for legal aid in ongoing asset forfeiture proceedings and an appeal resulting from his February conviction on conspiracy to defraud and corruption-related charges.

Watson was sentenced to seven years in prison on Feb. 5 following a lengthy jury trial in which he was convicted of five out of six counts related to a scheme prosecutors said he and business partner Jeffrey Webb directed to embezzle funds from a patient swipe-card contract with the public hospital.

It was alleged that Watson personally profited from the scheme by taking nearly US$350,000 over the course of about three years.

Although his assets were stated to have been more than $3 million during the trial, which ran from November 2015 to February this year, Watson told Grand Court Judge Malcolm Swift on Monday that as a result of the conviction, the Crown had restrained cash and properties under provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Law. Watson said this left him without any ability to pay for legal representation.

Watson’s attorney Ben Tonner also applied on Monday to come “off record” for the defendant, meaning that as of Monday, Watson was left without any legal representation. Watson, the former managing director of financial services firm Admiral Administration, told the court that he intended to appeal his conviction and that he would need time to find a new lawyer.

Also on Monday, Crown prosecutors filed an application for Watson’s financial information as part of the asset forfeiture proceedings. It has not been stated how much the government is seeking to recover from Watson following his conviction.

Watson, who represented himself during Monday’s court hearing, said he would need significant time to go through the Crown’s request, and that facilities to do this at Northward Prison were “limited.” Also, some of the assets for which information was requested are overseas, which Watson said would make matters more challenging, particularly without an attorney.

The Crown seeks to obtain Watson’s assets since Nov. 21, 2008, but Watson indicated that many of those assets had been obtained “long before that date.” Also, accessing information regarding those assets would require Internet capabilities that Northward prisoners do not have access to.

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran said Monday that the financial information questions submitted by the Crown were “well within Mr. Watson’s knowledge” and based on evidence given at trial, Watson appeared to have “had a careful eye on his own financial situation.”

“These [forfeiture] proceedings cannot be unduly delayed,” Mr. Moran said. “I would submit this court should not countenance a situation where this [matter] can be dictated by the defendant.”

Watson requested more time to retrieve the information, stating that the Crown’s request goes back more than seven years, seeking records “for which I have no access.”

Justice Swift set a deadline of Oct. 17 for a directions hearing on the asset forfeiture matter.



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