Prosecutors reveal delays in football association probe

Although he was arrested more than six months ago in connection with a criminal investigation at the Cayman Islands Football Association, former CIFA treasurer Canover Watson has yet to be interviewed by police investigating the case, a court heard Friday.

Mr. Watson has not been charged with any crimes in the football association probe since his arrest.

The investigative delays were revealed before the Cayman Islands Grand Court Friday morning during asset confiscation hearings for Mr. Watson in connection with the CarePay fraud within the Cayman Islands public hospital system.

Mr. Watson was convicted on five of six criminal charges in the CarePay case and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment in February 2016. He unsuccessfully appealed the conviction in the CarePay case in September 2017.

While incarcerated, he was arrested again in June 2017, in connection with a separate criminal probe at CIFA.

“In relation to that [CIFA] matter, Mr. Watson was arrested on June 30, last year,” Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran said. “Since then, he has refused to be interviewed …”

Both Mr. Watson and his attorney Amelia Fosuhene told the court at this point that Mr. Moran’s claim was not correct. Mr. Watson said: “I haven’t, your honor.”

Mr. Moran then finished his statement to say that Mr. Watson had refused to be interviewed “without the presence of Ms. Fosuhene.”

He also said there had been “failures” on the part of the defense to agree to interviews with RCIPS officers investigating the CIFA matter and that he hoped those would be resolved shortly.

“That investigation is ongoing,” Mr. Moran said.

Both Mr. Watson and suspended CIFA vice president Bruce Blake were arrested in connection with the probe last year.

The general nature of the investigation was revealed in a statement made last year by Mr. Blake, who has also not been charged with any crimes. He was arrested a day before Mr. Watson and has denied any wrongdoing.

The statement read: “Mr. Blake’s arrest was in connection with suspicion of allegations of secret commission and money laundering in relation to the signing of two loan agreements on behalf of CIFA with regards to two amounts of US$600,000 each received in the Butterfield Bank account of CIFA and then transferred to the CIFA loan account at Fidelity Bank. Those two amounts were represented to Mr. Blake to be loans to CIFA to pay down on the CIFA loan at Fidelity Bank in order for Fidelity Bank to remove the charge on the CIFA Centre of Excellence in compliance with FIFA regulations.

“Mr. Blake is obviously shocked and dismayed by these suspicious allegations,” the statement read, adding that Mr. Blake had already cooperated with U.S. authorities and FIFA in their ongoing investigations.

Ms. Fosuhene has declined to make any comments regarding the CIFA probe on her client Mr. Watson’s behalf.

The Cayman Islands Journal, a sister publication of the Cayman Compass, has previously reported that a Panamanian company set up by Mr. Watson was used to receive what was described by U.S. prosecutors as a US$1.1 million bribe payment from a company named Traffic Sports that went to Cayman Islands businessman Jeffrey Webb.

The US$1.1 million bribe forms part of the allegations made by the U.S. government against Mr. Webb in relation to the ongoing FIFA bribery and racketeering scandal. Mr. Webb has pleaded guilty to seven charges against him in that investigation and is due to be sentenced in March 2018.

The Panama company, Forward Sports Management Inc., was the same entity that drew up the US$600,000 loan agreement with the Cayman Islands Football Association, according to U.S. court records. Mr. Watson served as CIFA’s treasurer at the time of the loan in late 2013.

A December 2015 lawsuit filed in a California court described that US$600,000 loan from Forward Sports and a matching second loan made to CIFA as “graft,” alleging that Forward Sports and California-based Cartan Tours paid the money as bribes to former CIFA President Webb in order to win a lucrative business arrangement with CONCACAF, world football’s regional governing body for the Caribbean, North and Central America.

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