(CMR) The trial of former Cayman Island Football Association (CIFA) executives Canover Watson and Bruce Blake began last Friday, 5 August. Watson, former treasurer of CIFA, stole US$1.54 million from CONCACAF, and former vice president of CIFA Bruce Blake helped him to launder this money, the court heard during the opening of the trial.
Both men were initially arrested in 2017 and charged in 2019, and they pleaded not guilty to eight charges in 2021. The charges include engaging in secret commission contracts, transferring criminal property, entering into an arrangement contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Law, and false accounting.
“At the heart of this case is a theft by Mr. Watson. And having stolen the money, he set about spending it or laundering it. He was assisted in doing that by Mr. Blake,” Eloise Marshall, QC, for the Crown, stated during her opening arguments.
Watson reportedly set up the company Forward Sports International Management, which shared a similar name to a company that had an existing relationship with CONCACAF and then used his company to issue three fake invoices amounting to US$1.54 million to CONCACAF for sports equipment.
Approximately $600,000 of the money was allegedly used to pay down a CIFA loan from Fidelity Bank, while Watson received other funds through companies he controlled. The money was also used to pay off his credit card bills. About $300,000 was used to buy genuine sports equipment after CONCACAF officials raised questions about the items that were ordered using the invoices.
The jury trial is expected to be a very lengthy one, possibly over two months.