Attorney General Dale Marshall has urged Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith to launch an investigation into allegations of bribery involving former Cabinet minister Donville Inniss and the Bermuda-owned, Barbados-based Insurance Corporation of Barbados (ICBL).
Griffith said yesterday someone would first have to report a crime to the police to trigger an investigation by white-collar crime unit detectives.
“We only pursue matters where we have a complainant, and as far as I am aware, no report has been made to us,” the police chief told Barbados TODAY.
But while the Attorney General cannot legally instruct the police to press any criminal charges – a job reserved for the independent Director of Public Prosecutions – he described Griffith’s attitude as unfair.
“I would say . . . that in any instance where the police have information that is credible that an offence has been committed, I would think that they would feel that it is within their remit to investigate and bring charges where appropriate,” Marshall told journalists at Government Headquarters.
“I don’t think it is fair for the commissioner of police to take the attitude that somebody must complain . . . perhaps that’s not what he meant. Complainant in law has a technical meaning . . . but the fact is that, I don’t want to think of it in terms of somebody complaining, I want to think of it in terms of somebody being a victim,” Marshall said.
He noted that the victims in this case are the people of Barbados who have paid their money into the insurance company.
“There is a victim, and I don’t think we need to have a complainant in an instance where a crime has been committed. I believe that it is well within the powers of the police . . . because the individuals are within our jurisdiction . . . to bring charges against them,” he insisted, in reference to the three then executives of ICBL identified in a United States federal indictment against Inniss, the former Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development.
But even though ICBL, once a state enterprise and still Government’s leading insurer, is at the centre of an alleged crime, Marshall said Government preferred to address the matter without seeking “blood”.
“We have a major insurance corporation in Barbados that carries most of Government’s insurance coverage. The allegations have been made that they or their officers have been engaged in corrupt practices. How do we justify continuing to place insurance coverage with that company? That is a very difficult decision to have. But at the same time, a large percentage of the shares of that company are owned by Barbadians like you or me and are also owned by the Government,” Government’s chief legal advisor observed.
“So we have to find a way that is not necessarily punitive, but allows us to have that kind of cathartic process. It would be difficult for the Government of Barbados to say we will take away all of our insurance coverage from that company. You would remember Barbados owned that company and that much of the insurance that they have now is legacy coverage. So how do we address that as a Government?” Marshall queried.
Yet he suggested that it would not be fair for Government to pull its investment in ICBL, or encourage Barbadians to do so.
“We are not talking about a decision of the entire body [company]. We are talking about a misguided decision of one or two people who probably felt they had to meet certain targets. So businesses have to continue. We want businesses to continue. So perhaps the way to deal with that is to allow for a catharsis, where people can feel quite freely, ‘well, I accept we did wrong, but I want to move on from there,’” he said.