NEW YORK, United States, Friday January 17, 2020 – A former politician and a senior minister in the Barbados Government is now awaiting sentencing in the United States after yesterday being convicted of laundering bribes paid to him by executives of the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL) to secure government contracts.
After two hours of deliberation at the end of a four-day trial in the Eastern District Federal Court in New York, a 12-member jury unanimously found former Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering, as well as laundering US$16,536.73 on April 17, 2015 and US$20,000 on April 18, 2016, through his friend’s company in the US.
The 54-year-old Inniss, who is a US legal permanent resident with a home in Tampa, Florida, remains on bail pending sentencing.
According to the evidence presented at trial, between 2015 and 2016 Inniss took part in a scheme to launder into the US, just over US$36,000 in bribes that he received from high-level executives of ICBL, while serving as a minister and a Member of Parliament under the previous Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration. In exchange for the bribes, he leveraged his position as the Minister of Industry to enable ICBL to obtain two insurance contracts from the Barbados government to insure over US$100 million worth of government property.
The bribes helped ICBL win contracts that paid more than US$93 million in net profits.
To conceal the money paid to him, Inniss had it sent to a US bank account in the name of his friend’s dental company, Crystal Dental Lab, in Elmont, New York, even though that company had been dissolved since 2004. The money was then transferred to one of his US bank accounts.
The trial evidence further showed that Inniss used a personal email account to communicate with an executive from ICBL in connection with the bribe payments and the laundering of the money through the dental company.
“It can’t be disputed that ICBL sent $36 000 to Crystal Dental Lab for consultation services which were never provided; it can’t be disputed that the money was for Inniss; and it cannot be disputed that ICBL sent the money to secure Government contracts. That alone should be enough evidence,” prosecutor David Gopstein had told the jury, which heard the case before District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, during closing arguments yesterday afternoon.
Although not disputing the money transfers, Inniss’ lawyer Anthony Ricco argued that the evidence did not support its view that they were bribes.
It is on that basis that he told reporters, after the jury delivered the guilty verdicts, that he would be fighting the conviction.
“I plan to appeal and challenge the decision based on the insufficiency of the evidence. The trial is just step one of what could be many….Justice is a long road and we’re built for it,” Ricoo said.
The defence attorney also took issue with the fact that Inniss, a former Barbadian official, was being tried in a court in the US.
“We have a case where an American jury is judging a Barbadian official from the mindset of an American. Can you imagine what would have happened if an American official had been arrested in Barbados and tried in Barbados? It’s unheard of,” he said.
The US Justice Department a year ago also charged ICBL’s former chief executive officer, Ingrid Innes, and its former senior vice president, Alex Tasker. The two, who are not in US custody, were charged with one count of conspiracy to launder money and two counts of money laundering, in a superseding indictment unsealed on January 18, 2019.
The Justice Department said ICBL had cooperated with the investigation, voluntarily disclosed to the US government the payments to Inniss, enhanced its compliance programme and internal accouting controls, and fired individuals involved in the misconduct. It received a prosecution declination under the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy and also handed over the US$93,940.19 in the illicit profits it earned from the scheme.