MIAMI (Reuters) - A former member of world soccer body FIFA’s financial watchdog has been sentenced to seven years in prison in the Cayman Islands after being found guilty of fraud, his lawyer said.
Canover Watson, who was a member of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee, was found guilty of five charges related to his time in charge of the Caribbean nation’s Health Service Authority (HSA), according to the Cayman Island’s Anti-Corruption Commission, which had led the investigation.
While the charges were not football-related, the verdict against a man who served on a body which monitored FIFA’s finances is another blow to the image of the organization facing an unprecedented corruption crisis.
A statement from the Anti-Corruption Commission said the 45-year-old Watson was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to defraud, fraud on the government, conflict of interest and breach of trust by a public official. He was found not guilty of a money-laundering charge. None of the cases related to soccer.
Watson’s attorney Ben Tonner confirmed local media reports that his client had been sentenced to seven years in prison.
Watson was suspended from the FIFA watchdog in September 2014 pending the outcome of the case. He had also been treasurer of the Cayman Islands Football Association and was a vice-president of the Caribbean Football Union.
Another Cayman soccer official, Jeffrey Webb, a former FIFA vice president and president of the CONCACAF, the confederation covering North and Central America and the Caribbean, has also been charged in the case but has yet to face trial.
Webb is currently in the United States having pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of money laundering conspiracy as part of the Department of Justice’s investigation into FIFA which has seen 41 individuals and entities indicted.
The Cayman Compass newspaper reported that Justice Michael Mettyear told Watson during sentencing: “You behaved shamelessly … falsifying presentations, letters, emails, contracts and signatures … you fooled a number of senior civil servants and possibly a minister.”
Watson’s senior defense counsel, Trevor Burke QC, said his client had been “ruined”.
“Canover Watson’s fall from grace is now complete,” the newspaper said.
Reporting By Simon Evans; editing by Ralph Boulton