Despite criticism by the Attorney General, the Royal Barbados Police Force has again insisted it won’t touch the case involving former International Business Minister Donville Inniss and his alleged criminal dealings with the Insurance Corporation of Barbados.
But Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Crime Eucklyn Thompson has said if information was presented to the force regarding allegations of bribery taking place on Barbadian soil, the RBPF would definitely investigate them.
“We can only deal with what is available to us. We can’t go by any speculation or that kind of thing. We will deal [with] whatever comes before us in terms of evidence… and the investigative process . . . . We will definitely do our part. But in terms of names mentioned and that kind of thing so being put on the table, that’s not what it is,” ACP Thompson said, adding that the situation was not at the stage for the RBPF to investigate ICBL.
But, in laying money laundering charges against Inniss in US Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the US Justice Department contended the minister had also violated Barbadian law – the Prevention of Corruption Act – in accepting bribes from ICBL in 2015 and 2016 which he then laundered through the US while a Cabinet member.
ACP Thompson would not be drawn into confirming whether police had any evidence before it right now to prompt a probe, explaining that he did not want to be definite about a position he could not support.
“I can’t tell you definitively what you are probing me on . . . but all I can tell you is that anything that comes on our table, the force’s administration will deal with it. We are strong enough to deal with anything that comes before us,” he contended.
The crime chief echoed the sentiments of his boss, Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith, who in early August had said the police can only act if a report is made to them, prompting a swift retort from Attorney General Dale Marshall.
“We only pursue matters where we have a complainant, and as far as I am aware no report has been made to us,” Griffith said then.
The next day, the Attorney General urged the police chief to launch an investigation into bribery allegations involving Inniss and the Bermudian-owned, Barbados-based ICBL. However, as an independent body, the RBPF cannot be legally instructed by a Cabinet minister to undertake investigations; that role is reserved for the Crown’s Director of Public Prosecutions.
Griffith said then that 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 had told Barbados TODAY.
Marshall 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 in early August.
“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.
Then, late last month, Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson also urged regulators to act wherever the law allows against ICBL, whose overseas parent BF&M Limited admitted that its firm paid a bribe for a Government insurance contract.
According to the three-count US Federal Court indictment unsealed last August 6, between August 2015 and April 2016, Inniss engaged in a scheme to accept about $36,000 in bribes from high-level executives of the insurance company here and laundered that money through the US.
It alleged that in exchange for the bribes, Inniss leveraged his position as the Minister of Industry to enable ICBL to obtain two Government contracts.
The 52-year-old former Cabinet Minister in the Freundel Stuart Administration was arrested on August 3 in Florida and arraigned the following Monday before US Magistrate Judge Julie Sneed in the Middle District of Florida at the federal courthouse in Tampa. He was released on a $50,000 bond, to reappear on October 23.