While there was no shortage of drama in the local law courts in 2018, a former Government Minister who was arrested in the United States undoubtedly stole the headlines.
Barbados was thrown into a state of shock when news broke that former Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss had been arrested on August 3, while at his Tampa, Florida home, on money laundering and related conspiracy charges.
Inniss, 52, a US legal permanent resident, was charged in an indictment with one count of conspiracy to launder money and two counts of money laundering. The indictment was returned under seal by a federal grand jury sitting in Brooklyn, New York, on March 15.
The indictment alleges that in 2015 and 2016, Inniss took part in a scheme to launder into the US, approximately $36 000 in bribes that he received from high-level executives of a Barbadian insurance company, when he was a Member of Parliament and Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce, and Small Business Development under the previous Democratic Labour Party administration.
It is alleged that in exchange for the bribes, Inniss leveraged his ministerial position to enable the insurance company, subsequently confirmed to be Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL), to obtain two government contracts. To conceal the bribes, Inniss arranged to receive them through a US bank account in the name of a dental company, which had an address in Elmont, New York, prosecutors allege.
“As charged in the indictment, Inniss abused his position of trust as a government official by taking bribes from a Barbadian company, then laundered the illicit funds through a bank and a dental company located in the Eastern District of New York,” US Attorney Richard Donoghue said at the time.
“The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable corrupt government officials here or abroad who use the US financial system to facilitate their criminal conduct,” he added.
Inniss made three appearances in court, the last being on October 23, when US federal judge Kiyo Matsumoto set June 24, 2019 as the date for trial.
If convicted, Inniss could be fined US$500 000 as well as serve 20 years in jail.
On the local scene, two prominent businessmen and a popular singer found themselves facing drug charges.
It was on July 27 that then Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association Arthur Charles Herbert appeared on several drug charges.
The 62-year-old of Redland Plantation, St George, along with Walter Oneal Prescod, 55, a sailor of #107 Emerald Park East, St Philip, and Christopher Glenn Rodgers, 56, a company director of #27 York Road, Navy Gardens, Christ Church, were charged with possession of cannabis, possession with intent to supply, trafficking, and importing the illegal drug on July 23.
The drugs weighed 267 pounds and had an estimated street value of $534 160.
Herbert and Rogers were each released on $400 000 bail while Prescod, who was granted bail in the sum of $450 000, was remanded to prison after he was unable to secure a surety.
Moments after leaving the courtroom, Rogers and Herbert, the former chairman of Goddards Enterprises, held an impromptu press conference proclaiming their innocence.
“I first want to assert clearly to the public that we are entirely innocent of all of the charges that have been brought and we have been charged with,” Herbert said, making no reference to Prescod.
He also called on Director of Public Prosecutions Donna Babb-Agard, QC, “to urgently review the evidence that has been collected and to preserve the integrity of our police force in bringing these charges against us”.
Entertainer Betty Alicia Griffith-Payne was among three people arrested and jointly charged in connection with $625 000 worth of cocaine in November.
She was jointly charged with her 35-year-old sister Marie Alexa Griffith, of Phillips Road, Cleavers Hill, St Joseph, and Kwanza Ezra Canterbury, a 34-year-old Guyanese national, with unlawful possession, possession with intent to supply, trafficking and conspiracy to traffic 12 kilos of cocaine.
After initially being remanded, she was granted bail in the sum of $300 000.
In December, another businessman, DaCosta Alexander Brathwaite was also hauled before the court on drug charges.
The 53-year-old managing director of D’s Mega Styles, who lives at No. 2 Chelston Gardens, St Michael, was released on $220 000 bail after he was charged with doing acts preparatory for the purpose of trafficking cannabis and conspiring with another person to traffic cannabis on December 20.
The illicit substance in question was said to weigh 49 kilogrammes and had an estimated street value of $440 000.
In a landmark ruling, Director of Ouch Boutique Grenville Ricardo Delpeache was convicted of selling fake products from Rihanna’s PUMA line.
The 44-year-old Delpeache, whose store is located in Swan Street, was charged with selling counterfeit PUMA Fenty by Rihanna and Creeper Sneakers and PUMA Fenty slippers, as well as exposing for sale PUMA slippers, shoes and backpacks in May last year.
While the charge carries a maximum sentence of $10 000 or six months in prison, Delpeache’s lawyer Satcha Kissoon has lodged an appeal in the High Court.
A decision on the matter is pending.
In a year of shocks and surprises, Government also suffered a rare defeat in the Upper Chamber when it failed to secure a two-thirds majority vote in its effort to pass the Offences Against the Person (Amendment) Bill 2018 on November 7.
In a surprising occurrence, eight of the 17 Senators present voted against the amendment which would remove the mandatory aspect of a death sentence while retaining the death penalty, leaving Government well short of the required number for the bill to be passed. Three Senators were absent.
When the bill was moved to a vote, Leader of Government Business Senator Dr Jerome Walcott, Senators Kay McConney, Lynette Holder, Lucille Moe, Dr Rommel Springer, Damien Sands, Dr Crystal Haynes, Rawdon Adams and Rudolph Cappy Greenidge voted in the affirmative.
But Independent Senators Alphea Wiggins, Dr Christopher Maynard, Lindell Nurse, Kevin Boyce, Monique Taitt, Reverend Michael Maxwell, along with Opposition Senators Caswell Franklyn and Crystal Drakes voted “no”.
The decision drew the ire of Attorney General Dale Marshall who said the move meant that more than 60 murder cases would be further delayed.
Marshall said the cases could not proceed as the High Court was not in a position to impose any sentence if any accused was convicted of murder, since the Caribbean Court of Justice had already ruled that a mandatory death penalty was unconstitutional.
Meantime, employees of the Supreme Court in Whitepark Road, St Michael walked off the job after complaining of falling ill, citing environmental issues.
Following several discussions with the National Union of Public Workers, Court authorities made a decision that Civil Courts, Registration, the Records Departments, Accounts, marshals and ancillary staff would be relocated to the Manor Lodge Complex, while the Criminal Court of Appeal and the Criminal Courts would be moved to the new District “D” and “F” Magistrates’ Courts at Cane Garden, St Thomas.