April 20 – Two former associates of disgraced former Concacaf president and FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb have been jailed in the Cayman Islands for fraud and money laundering.
Former Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) treasurer Canover Watson has been sentenced to eight years in prison, while former vice president Bruce Blake (pictured) was sentenced to two years.
Webb has outstanding arrest warrants in the Cayman Islands against him, though is still currently awaiting sentencing in the US having pled guilty to multiple charges of fraud, money laundering and graft in the US Department of Justice case against FIFA.
The Watson and Blake case were not part of the FIFAgate scandal but came to light as investigations into Webb’s CIFA and Concacaf presidency progressed as part of the US department of Justice indictments. Watson and Blake were both friends and steadfast supporters of Webb.
The two men were first arrested in 2017 and charged in 2019 of defrauding Concacaf of $1.54 million in 2013.
Watson gave Concacaf three sales invoices amounting to $1.54 million for equipment purchased from Forward Sports. However, the invoices were ruled to be fraudulent and there was no evidence of the equipment ever having been delivered. Blake, a lawyer, was accused of helping him to launder the money.
Watson faced six counts, while Blake faced four counts, and they were charged jointly on two of the eight counts. The charges included engaging in secret commission contracts, transferring criminal property, entering into an arrangement contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Law, and false accounting, according to the Cayman Marl Road website.
Watson set up false subsidiaries of Forward Sports International Pakistan in Panama and the Cayman Islands and made two US$600,000 transfers from his company Forward Sports International, Panama, to the Cayman Islands Football Association, knowing it was the proceeds of crime.
Blake was accused of entering into several arrangements with Watson to facilitate the laundering of the money, making false statements to CIFA’s auditors about the origin of two loans used to pay down an existing loan the local football association had with Fidelity Bank.
Watson was sentenced to a total of eight years in prison – 3.5 years for secret commissions and two years for each count of money laundering to run consecutively to the count of secret commissions. He was sentenced to 4.5 years for false accounting to run consecutively to the sentence for secret commission and concurrently to the money laundering counts.
Blake’s sentence was for three years but discounted to 18 months due to mitigating factors of good character, a long delay in the case, and a low risk of reoffending. He was sentenced to two years on the second count, with both sentences to run concurrently.
Watson’s defence was that some of the equipment was supplied. While Blake said that he was unaware that the funds had been acquired fraudulently and that Watson had applied his signature electronically and without his knowledge.
Not Watson or Webb’s first rodeo
Watson was convicted of being involved in setting up a company along with Webb as beneficial owners that was awarded a contract with the HSA for a Carepay system for the government health insurance company CINICO. They received payment of more than $6.7million.
Watson was made to hand over $1million in assets as part of a confiscation hearing, however not all the money could be recovered, according to court records from 2018 as $600,000 of it was cash and other sums were moved outside of Cayman Islands jurisdiction.
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