Canover Watson began serving a seven-year prison sentence in early February on charges of conspiracy to defraud, fraud on the government, breach of trust and conflict of interest charges following a Grand Court verdict in the CarePay trial.
Since his sentencing 10 months ago, there appears to have been little progress – at least publicly – on any follow-up investigations in relation to the Watson case. The CarePay investigation revealed how the local businessman used his position on the Health Services Authority board to divert two contracts to business partners, skimming some US$350,000 for himself in the process.
The Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commission has repeatedly declined to respond to questions regarding any ongoing investigations in the matter, even though hospital Chief Executive Lizzette Yearwood has publicly stated in response to an open records request that such a probe was occurring.
Grand Court Judge Michael Mettyear, while acknowledging in February 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 Watson’s business partner, former FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb, may have been the leader of the conspiracy to skim profits from the public health system swipe-card contract, known as the CarePay 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, in 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. You are a certified accountant. Yet you behaved shamelessly. You fooled a number of senior civil servants and possibly a minister. You tried to fool the jury, although you failed.”
The judge did not deny that Watson had performed a number of good works in the community during the past 10 years, for which he had received the Young Caymanian Leadership Award in 2007. However, in some ways, Justice Mettyear said, that made the offenses of which Watson was convicted worse.
“You had been an inspiration to many young Caymanians,” Mr. Mettyear said. “What on earth must they think now?”
Watson was sentenced to 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.
Appeal under way
Watson, whose personal assets were stated at more than $3 million during his criminal trial, was granted legal aid to appeal his conviction on fraud and corruption charges.
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.
An asset forfeiture order requiring Watson to produce certain financial information about his bank accounts and properties in Cayman was not complied with. 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. In October, 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.
A date was tentatively set in February for the asset forfeiture matter. No date had been set for Watson’s appeal at year’s end.