The embattled former Minister of Industry, Commerce and International Business Donville Inniss will begin his date with destiny tomorrow when he is arraigned on money laundering charges at a federal court in Brooklyn, New York.
Inniss, who is represented by attorney-at-law Garnett Sullivan, will be required to enter a plea to the three-count indictment, which is alleged to have occurred within the jurisdiction of the eastern division of the New York district attorney.
The 52-year-old former Member of Parliament for St James South will appear before Judge Kiyo Matsumoto at noon tomorrow.
This morning, an official from the New York district attorney’s office told Barbados TODAY the prosecution had no indication as to how Inniss would plead, nor were they able to estimate the duration of the trial.
“I can tell you that he would be arraigned tomorrow at noon,” the official said.
“At this moment I cannot state how he intends to plead, that is something you would have to ask his lawyer. I also cannot speculate on how long the trial would take.”
Inniss, a United States permanent resident, has Tampa, Florida listed as his US address. It was there he was arrested early on the morning of August 3 and charged with one count of conspiracy to launder money and two counts of money laundering.
His arrest attracted widespread news coverage in the United States and beyond, prompting former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to state at the 63rd annual conference of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) on August 12 that Barbados had “attracted international attention in the wrong way and on the wrong issues”.
Stuart never mentioned Inniss directly, but he left little doubt who he was referring to.
“There is no silver lining in the news that recently surfaced in Barbados. We have attracted international attention in the wrong way and on the wrong issues,” the former Prime Minister said at the time, adding that the DLP wished “our colleague well . . . he is innocent until proven guilty”.
The indictment, sealed on March 15, more than two months before Inniss and the DLP were swept out of office, alleges that in 2015 and 2016, the then minister took part in a scheme to launder into the United States approximately $36,000 in bribes that he received from high-level executives of a Barbadian insurance company, which was not named in the indictment, but later revealed to be Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL).
In return he would use his office to cause the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation, a state-owned enterprise under his ministerial portfolio, to renew insurance contracts of almost $1 million with the local insurance company.
US law enforcement officials charged that to conceal the bribes, Inniss arranged to receive the funds through a US bank account in the name of a dental company, which had an address in Elmont, New York.
In a release issued by the Department of Justice on August 6, assistant attorney general Brian A. Benczkowski of the justice department’s criminal division said “as charged in the indictment, Inniss abused his position of trust as a Government official”.
Earlier this month the Bermuda Gazette newspaper quoted John Wight, chief executive officer of BF&M, the parent company of ICBL as saying the parent company had known of alleged corrupt activity and had acted accordingly.
“In 2016 the board of directors of ICBL became aware of improper conduct by certain senior managers. ICBL has a zero-tolerance policy for this conduct and immediately dealt with the issue in the appropriate manner. I am not able to elaborate any further on this matter at this time,” the paper quoted Wight, the chairman of ICBL, as saying.
BF&M bought a majority share of ICBL from the Government of Barbados for $25.85 million in November 2005 and now owns a 51.7 per cent stake in the company through its wholly owned subsidiary, Hamilton Financial Ltd., which is based in St. Lucia.
ICBL was established in 1978 as a statutory corporation and subsequently privatized in December 2000. It boasts 2,300 shareholders inclusive of institutional investors and individuals, representing 48.3 per cent of the company’s ownership.
Inniss is confined to New York and wears an electronic monitoring bracelet.