GEORGE TOWN: Former FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb is serving his US house arrest at home in Georgia. Now a court back in the Cayman Islands has been told its purchase was partly funded by monies tricked by a business associate out of local council officials.
Canover Watson, a former member of the audit and compliance committee of the world football federation, is on trial with another defendant over a $1.2m fraud concerning the manipulation of a hospital patient swipe-card payment system.
He and Webb controlled a company named AIS (Cayman) Ltd into which the monies were diverted although they were not formal directors.
Watson was removed from the FIFA audit and compliance committee in September 2014 after being arrested over his conduct while chair of the Cayman Health Authority. He had also been a vice-president of the Caribbean Football Union and has denied wrongdoing.
Webb, a Cayman Islands banker, was suspended from football after having been a FIFA vice-president and head of the central and north American confederation CONCACAF at the time of his FIFAGate arrest in Zurich on May 27.
Subsequently he was extradited to the US on charges connected to the FBI’s $150m football corruption investigation.
Webb was bailed under house arrest to his home in Georgia which was identified in a statement of facts in the prosecution’s opening address in the Watson trial.
Patrick Moran, the Cayman Islands’ Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, told jurors that Watson had deceived local government officials into paying an additional $1.2m by proposing the extension of the swipe-card system to private sector health insurers.
Such an extension had not featured in the initial contract signed in December 2010. However a later, ‘doctored’ version of the contract submitted to the Health Ministry indicated the extension be undertaken by AIS (Cayman) Ltd.
Moran described AIS (Cayman) Ltd as serving various purposes for Watson and Webb including settling a $220,000 loan towards Webb’s purchase of his home in Loganville, Georgia.
Other monies went towards purchasing a ‘home entertainment centre’ at the property and a further sum to the Cayman Islands Football Association, of which Webb had been president.
Simultaneously, Watson set up a company in the British Virgin Islands named AIS Consulting to be a recipient of the expected $500,000-a-year profits from the extended CarePay project.
In mid-2011 Webb had sought a short-term loan of $240,000 from Fidelity Bank on behalf of a Cayman Islands-registered company J & D International. It directors included not only Webb but his then aide Costas Takkas as well as Jack Warner, Webb’s predecessor as CONCACAF president.
[Both Takkas and Warner are currently contesting FIFAGate extradition applications from the US authorities. Takkas is in detention in Switzerland while Warner remains at home in Trinidad.]
J & D’s loan application prompted Fidelity to query the nature of its business and its connection to AIS (Cayman) Ltd and the swipecard contract.
Watson responded that J & D International intended to invest in AIS (Cayman) Ltd ahead of its supposed expansion into the US.
The loan was granted and funds passed from J & D to AIS (Cayman) Ltd and then to a Wells Fargo account in the US to help pay off monies which, said prosecutors, Webb owed on his Loganville home.
Before September 2011, when the loan repayment had fallen due, the central $1.2m had been paid to AIS (Cayman) Ltd.
By that time Watson had also transferred $500,000 obtained via a separate loan to an account in Georgia to purchase a home on the same street as Webb.
Months later questions began to be asked by Cayman Islands government auditors and even by one of Watson and Webb’s other business partners in the original AIS (Jamaica) which had been contracted to set up and run the orginal swipecard system.
In August 2014 Watson was arrested and questioned by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Anti-Corruption Unit on “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.”
In July this year the Cayman authorities issued an arrest warrant for Webb in connection with the CarePay investigation. By this time he was already in detention in Switzerland.
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