He was seen as the likely successor to outgoing President of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Freundel Stuart, the man to rebuild the fractured party in the wake of a devastating general election and potentially the next Prime Minister of Barbados.
But with former Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss currently facing a three-count indictment on money laundering charges in the United States, University of the West Indies (UWI) political scientist Cynthia Barrow-Giles said this afternoon Inniss’ political career was now over, days before his party’s annual conference chooses new leaders.
“Whether or not he is found guilty, his career is over. He has been tainted by these charges. He will not be able to hold any position of trust [again]. He was one of the potential leaders of the DLP, but Donville is now written out of holding any position of trust in the DLP, guilty or not,” Barrow-Giles told Barbados TODAY.
The senior lecturer in the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work at the Cave Hill Campus also noted that the only reason Inniss was charged was because he happened to be a permanent resident of the US. Inniss maintains a home in the city of Tampa, Florida, where he was arrested on the wee hours of Friday morning.
“There are a lot of people walking around [in Barbados] who would not be caught in any web of corruption. The irony about it is that Donville was one of those in the party calling on people to bring the evidence and now he is caught in the web, although he is innocent until proven guilty,” she added.
According to the nine-page Grand Jury indictment, Inniss leveraged his position as Minister of Industry in August 2015 and April 2016 and engaged in a scheme to accept about US $36,000 in bribes from a “Bermuda-owned insurance company based in Barbados” in violation of Barbadian law, and to launder that money in a New York dental company that was controlled by a fellow Tampa resident.
The indictment, filed on March 15, 2018 in the US District Court of the Eastern District of New York, alleged that the Chief Executive Officer and a Senior Vice President and the Chief Financial Officer of the insurance firm here agreed to pay bribes to Inniss, who, it claimed, in return, agreed to use his office to cause the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), a state-owned enterprise under his ministerial portfolio, to renew insurance contracts with the local insurance company.
The insurance company was not named in the indictment but has since been identified as the Insurance Corporation of Barbados (ICBL), whose major shareholder is Bermudian insurer BF&M Limited.
The court document also claimed that the three insurance executives conspired to pay bribes to Inniss through a US bank account in the name of the New York dental company, which had no actual business with the Barbados insurer.
“The Barbados company employees, including Barbados company executives 1, 2 and 3, did not disclose to the Bermuda company that the payments were for the benefit of a Barbadian Government official and instead falsely claimed that the payments were for ‘consulting services,’” the Grand Jury alleged.
While a Cabinet minister, in order to conceal the bribe payments, Inniss arranged to launder the funds through a bank in Elmont, New York, in the name of the dental firm, the indictment alleged, adding that the money was routed through a branch of the bank located in Brooklyn.
The indictment referred to Section 6 of the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1929 in relation to the charges against Inniss, which makes a convicted person liable to jail time of not more than seven years and not less than three.
A new Prevention of Corruption Act passed in Parliament six years ago, and which was intended to repeal and replace the colonial-era law, is yet to go into effect. Although it received royal assent by Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave on December 18 2012, it was still awaiting proclamation for it to have the force of law. The 2012 Act provides for a fine of $500,000 or jail time of five years or both. The would-be law also makes provision for the Crown to seize and forfeit the gains of the convicted.
But under US law, Inniss faces at least 20 years behind bars if found guilty and forfeiture of assets in the amount of the sums claimed in the indictment.
Political scientist Barrow-Giles told Barbados TODAY that it was unlikely Inniss would face jail time here with respect to these charges.
Turning her attention to Sunday’s annual conference of the DLP, she said it would be a sombre one with nothing to celebrate.
When Barbados TODAY reached out to General Secretary George Pilgrim today he was tight-lipped. “I have no comment,” was all he would say.
Calls to Attorney General Dale Marshall, Industry Minister Ronald Toppin, BIDC officials and management of ICBL were not returned.