The lawyer for former Minister of Commerce and Industry Donville Inniss is insisting that no plea deal was being negotiated with prosecutors on his money laundering charges in the United States.
Garnett Sullivan told Barbados TODAY that it was at Inniss’ arraignment on Thursday that he spoke to prosecutors for the first time about the three-count indictment.
He further explained that the process of discovery, in which prosecutors provide evidence to the defence, has only just begun and that any talk of a plea deal was some way off.
“I don’t know where that information could have come from because he was just arraigned yesterday and he entered a plea of not guilty. In all criminal cases there is some negotiation but we are certainly not at that stage yet. I have only met the prosecutor for the first time in court yesterday so I don’t know how we could have even gotten to that stage,” Sullivan said.
“We are now looking at discovery and the government is turning over documentation to support whatever their claims are and it is going to take me a while to dig into the evidence. Any talk of negotiation is premature. Mr Inniss has pleaded not guilty and therefore presumed innocent,” he added.
During court proceedings on Thursday it emerged that Inniss had entered into negotiations with the US Justice Department and the District Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York. There were no details as to the nature of the negotiations but it was also revealed that Inniss had waived his right to a speedy trial, which allows US justice officials additional time beyond the 70-day window for prosecution.
In a telephone interview with Barbados TODAY this afternoon, Sullivan explained that such language by the prosecutor was standard, as good reasons have to be given for the waiving of the right to a speedy trial. He also contended it was the defence more so than the prosecutors that needed the waiver in order to prepare their case.
“We [prosecutor and defence] have to decide whether or not we go to trial or if there is going to be some resolution but before we even do that I have to look at the evidence. According to federal law, a trial must be held within 70 days but that rarely ever happens.
“I have been practising law since the 1980s and I have never seen it done or even remotely close to that. I would not even be able to look at the documents in 70 days, so the defence has to waive the right to a speedy trial,” the American attorney said.
But while Sullivan stressed there was no negotiation at the moment, he would not rule it out as possibility after reviewing the US Government’s case.
“We always leave open to the possibility of negotiations. [It] depends on how the evidence unfolds. As an attorney I never close any door on any possibility but we have to first see where the evidence takes us. However, things just don’t move that fast over here,” he stressed.
Inniss, a US green card holder, has Tampa 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.
The US alleges that in 2015 and 2016, he took part in a scheme to launder into the United States approximately $36,000 in bribes that he received from executives of a Barbadian insurance company, which was not named in the indictment, but later revealed to be Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL).
The indictment was sealed on March 15, more than two months before the then minister and the DLP administration were swept out of office in the May 24 general election.