ZURICH: The senior FIFA official caught up amid fraud allegations in the Cayman Islands has been removed from his duties with the world federation pending further investigation writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Canover Watson, a member of FIFA’s supervisory audit and compliance committee, was arrested and questioned by local police last month over concerns arising during his time as chair of the Cayman Health Authority.
This sparked concerns about his football role because the audit and compliance panel, created in the recent reform process, demands absolute credibility of its membership.
A statement from committee chairman Domenico Scala, while acknowledging that nothing has been proved against Watson, has confirmed the 43-year-old’s “temporary” removal.
Scala, in a statement, said: “After a preliminary clarification of the facts of the case and the allegations of the Cayman Island investigating authorities against Canover Watson, no connection with football and/or his role at association level has been established at this stage. The investigation continues.
“The chairman [Scala] has decided to temporarily relieve until further notice Canover Watson, to whom the presumption of innocence applies, of his duties on the FIFA audit and compliance committee.
“This should not be regarded as routine procedure, because cases like this or of this nature must always be assessed on their individual merits.”
The audit and compliance committee was created in 2012 to “ensure the completeness and reliability” of the world governing body’s finances and also the credibility of senior individuals within the organisation.
Watson, a businessman from the Cayman Islands and vice-president of the Caribbean Football Union, has denied the allegations which, which they do not concern football directly, were embarrassing for FIFA.
He is also close to Jeff Webb, the Cayman Islands banker who is president of the CONCACAF region and head of the FIFA’s anti-discrimination task force.
Watson was arrested by officers from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Anti-Corruption Unit and bailed to report back to police on September 29.
The arrest followed a police investigation into a hospital swipe-card billing system in the Cayman Islands when he was head of the Health Services Authority.
According to a police statement, Watson’s arrest was for “suspicion of breach of trust contrary to section 13 of the Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Law, as well as abuse of public office… and conflict of interest”, as well as “suspicion of money laundering contrary to section 133 of the Proceeds of Crime Law”.
Watson responded: “The allegations are denied. In due course, at the proper time and in the appropriate forum, I look forward to setting out my position in greater detail.
“For present purposes since the police investigation is ongoing, I have been advised by my attorneys that it would be inappropriate for me to make further comment.”