Donville Inniss has entered into negotiations with US prosecutors, adding a new twist in his federal money laundering case.
The revelation came as he pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and money laundering charges in a New York court today.
There were no details as to the nature of the negotiations, but Inniss has waived his right to a speedy trial, which means the US justice department can go beyond the 71-day window for the court case to be wrapped up.
The former Minister of Commerce, Industry, International Business and Small Business Development has also been barred by a US federal judge from contacting three former Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL) executives – unindicted co-conspirators in a bribery and money laundering scheme US prosecutors allege the quartet ran while Inniss was a member of the Freundel Stuart Cabinet.
The gag order was one of a series of additional conditions imposed by Federal Judge Kiyo Matsumoto when the firebrand Democratic Labour Party cabinet member pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges during his arraignment in Brooklyn, New York, today.
Dressed in a dark-grey two-piece suit, the 52-year-old businessman-turned-politician arrived at US Federal Court for the Eastern District of New York early for his noon hearing.
He was accompanied by former Attorney General and Democratic Labour Party (DLP) colleague, Adriel Brathwaite, who told Barbados TODAY he was playing no role in Inniss’ case except as a friend lending moral support.
“I am not involved in his defence in any way. I am not qualified to practise law in the US. I am just here supporting my friend,” Braithwaite said.
Inniss, who is represented by attorney-at-law Garnett Sullivan, was released on the same bail conditions with additional terms, including the gag order.
He is also now permitted to travel to the Southern District of Florida, which includes Miami.
Before today’s hearing, he was only permitted to travel between the Eastern District of New York and the Middle District of Florida, where his home in Tampa is located.
Inniss is to reappear in federal court on October 23.
Since obtaining bail in Tampa on August 6, Inniss has had to wear an ankle bracelet with GPS monitoring, enabling US authorities to track his whereabouts at all times.
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 indictment, 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, 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).
In return, he would use his ministerial office to cause the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation, a state-owned enterprise under his industry portfolio to renew insurance contracts of almost $1 million with ICBL, prosecutors allege.
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, they added.
Earlier this month the Bermuda Gazette newspaper reported that John Wight, chief executive officer of ICBL’s parent, BF&M, had acknowledged the alleged impropriety 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.
First established 40 years as a statutory corporation and then privatized in December 2000, ICBL is the nation’s largest insurer, 2,300 shareholders inclusive of institutional investors and individuals, representing 48.3 per cent of the company’s ownership.
Its single largest client remains its former owner – the Government of Barbados and several parastatal agencies like the BIDC.