NEW YORK, United States, Friday August 24, 2018 – Former Barbados government minister Donville Inniss, who yesterday pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges in court in New York, has entered into negotiations with prosecutors, according to reports.
Although the nature of the negotiations has not been disclosed, it’s being reported that the talks could lead to a reduced punishment for the 52-year-old former Member of Parliament.
Inniss, a Minister of Commerce, Industry, International Business and Small Business Development under the previous Democratic Labour Party government, is accused of laundering just over US$36,000 in bribes he had received from the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL) in exchange for getting them two government contracts in 2015 and 2016. He is charged with conspiracy and money laundering and could spend up to 20 years in jail and be fined up to US$500,000 if convicted.
When he was arraigned in the US Federal Court for the Eastern District of New York and pleaded not guilty, Inniss was allowed to continue on the same US$50,000 bond that he was granted on August 6 when his indictment was unsealed and he made his first court appearance. He has also had to wear a GPS monitoring device (electronic ankle bracelet) so authorities know his whereabouts at all times.
Yesterday, he was also ordered by Judge Kiyo Matsumoto not to make any contact with three former ICBL executives—who have not been indicted—with whom he allegedly engaged in the bribery scheme.
He is also now allowed to travel to the Southern District of Florida. Before yesterday’s hearing, Inniss, a legal permanent resident of the US, was only permitted to travel between the Eastern District of New York and the Middle District of Florida, where he has a home.
He will reappear in federal court on October 23rd.
Yesterday, Inniss was accompanied by former Cabinet colleague, Adriel Brathwaite. The former Attorney General, who is also a qualified lawyer, told the Barbados Today online newspaper that he was “just here supporting my friend”.
According to the indictment, between August 2015 and April 2016, Inniss engaged in a scheme to accept US$36,536.73 in bribes from high-level insurance company executives in Barbados and launder that money through the US. The insurance company was not named, but the indictment stated that the identity of the company—which offered various financial products, including individual life, health and casualty insurance—is known to the grand jury. It was later revealed in Barbados that the company was ICBL.
In exchange for the bribes, Inniss leveraged his position as the Minister of Industry to cause the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), over which he had responsibility, to renew two contracts with the insurance company. One contract was for US$16,536.73 and the other was US$20,000.
Bribe payments to Inniss were allegedly made through a US bank account in the name of a New York dental company, which had no actual business with the Barbados insurance company. ICBL executives transferred the funds to the dental company using an invoice falsely claiming that the payments were for consulting services.
A friend of Inniss, identified in the indictment as co-conspirator one, was the authorized representative of the New York dental company bank account.