Watson receives legal aid for conviction appeal

Court orders not followed in asset forfeiture case

A Caymanian businessman whose personal assets were stated at more than $3 million during his criminal trial early this year has been granted legal aid to appeal his conviction on fraud and corruption charges.

The Cayman Islands Grand Court heard Monday afternoon that Canover Watson, 46, had received legal aid assistance for the appeal, but that no legal assistance had been given – or asked for – in his pending asset forfeiture matter.

The Crown is seeking restitution following Watson’s conviction for conspiracy to defraud the government, which involved a scheme to siphon millions of dollars from the public hospital system via its CarePay patient swipe-card contract.

Watson was convicted in the conspiracy case and sentenced to seven years in prison after a jury found that he had personally profited from the fraud – earning at least US$348,000 over three years.

An asset forfeiture order requiring Watson to produce certain financial information about his bank accounts and properties in Cayman was not complied with as of Monday, the date the court had set for Watson to turn over those records.Watson sought legal aid in May, stating that the Crown had frozen his Cayman Islands assets and that he had no way to pay for an attorney. Last week, legal aid was granted, but Watson said his attorney, Amelia Fosuhene, had not been given sufficient time to review the matter.

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran was incredulous as to why Watson, a qualified accountant who once ran the financial services firm Admiral Administration, could not meet the requirements of the court.

Watson was convicted in the conspiracy case and sentenced to seven years in prison after a jury found that he had personally profited from the fraud – earning at least US$348,000 over three years.

“Mr. Watson does not need a lawyer to tell this court how much money he has and where he keeps it,” Mr. Moran said. “He does not need a lawyer to tell this court how much money he earned and how he spent it.”

Watson, who according to court testimony in his criminal trial, earned US$50,000 per month as managing director at Admiral, said matters were hardly as simple as the Crown sought to present. He said the request for his assets date back eight years and that much of the information was kept on paper records stored at a relative’s house.

Moreover, Mr. Watson said he did not have ready access to a computer or the Internet at Northward Prison to retrieve that data.

Attorney Lee Halliday-Davis, standing in for Ms. Fosuhene during Monday’s hearing, said Watson had assumed he would not be granted legal aid for the asset forfeiture matter and might indeed require an attorney’s assistance if he was unable to access his bank records online from the prison.

Grand Court Justice Charles Quin said that while it was “a little disappointing” that Watson had missed the court-imposed deadline to report his financial information, there seemed to be little the court could do but delay the asset forfeiture hearing for the time being.

A case management hearing was set for Nov. 28. It seemed unlikely Monday afternoon that the forfeiture proceeding would occur before early February – a year after Watson was convicted in the fraud case.

No date was set for his appeal of conviction.

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