Former government minister Donville Inniss’ legal troubles in the United States have taken a turn in his favour.
Barbados TODAY investigations have revealed that the United States Justice Department has withdrawn one of the charges in an upgraded indictment under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that was brought against him earlier in the year.
According to court documents dated December 12, 2018, and obtained by Barbados TODAY, United States Attorney Richard P Donoghue wrote to the Judge Kiyo Matsumoto who is presiding over Inniss’ case, stating that based on the ruling in the recent case United States versus Hoskins, the government was withdrawing a superseding indictment which had been brought against Inniss.
Last August 24, in a matter unrelated to Inniss’ case, the United States Court of Appeals had determined that a non-resident foreign national could not be held criminally liable for aiding or abetting or conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, unless the government could show that the accused acted as an agent of a domestic concern or while he or she was physically present in the United States. Legal arguments were that Inniss fitted into neither category.
On August 6 this year, a three-count indictment had been unsealed in a federal court in Brooklyn charging Inniss with conspiracy to launder money and two counts of money laundering in the United States. The indictment also accused Inniss of accepting bribes from the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL) in 2015 and 2016 while he was Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development.
The allegation was that ICBL paid him $36,000 to use his authority to ensure that the firm’s million-dollar contract with the state-owned company Barbados Industrial Development Corporation (BIDC) which was under his ministerial portfolio was renewed. The US Attorney’s Office alleged that he conspired to hide the payment by having the money sent to a New York dental company, then into his bank account through a number of transfers.
The superseding indictment brought against Inniss has also mentioned the positions of two other defendants, namely an ICBL chief executive officer who the document referred to as a “Canadian citizen and a resident of Barbados” and an ICBL senior vice-president, who the nine-page indictment also indicated was a citizen and resident of Barbados. These two individuals have not yet been arrested in the United States and it is not known if either has travelled there since Inniss’ initial detention.
Efforts to reach Inniss in the United States this afternoon were unsuccessful but reliable legal sources told Barbados TODAY that the former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) St James South MP had parted company with attorney Garnet Sullivan and his matters were now being handled by the Anthony Ricco Law Firm which had filed the successful motion on his behalf.
Indications are that Inniss still has charges hanging over his head in relation to Barbados’ Prevention of Corruption Act 1929. However, now that the two ICBL officials have been identified in the superseding indictment, questions have arisen as to any deals they might be able to make if US authorities manage to apprehend them. Legal sources told Barbados TODAY that a question of jurisdiction could arise in any allegations of bribery brought against Inniss since there was no evidence of such an occurrence on American soil.
Sources indicated that since the Royal Barbados Police Force had not questioned nor charged Inniss with any matter related to accepting bribes from ICBL that it was highly unlikely US authorities could successfully prosecute him for a matter outside of their jurisdiction. The Grand Jury indictment filed with the US federal district court for the Eastern District of New York had referred to breaches in Barbadian law, namely the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1929.
However, last August Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith made it clear that no information had been shared between the Royal Barbados Police Force and US federal law enforcement regarding allegations of bribery and money laundering against Inniss. He said no complaint against Inniss had been made to the police. Stressing the point about jurisdiction, Griffith said even if Inniss was found guilty of any charges in the United States, it would still require someone to come forward and lodge a complaint in Barbados for the police to get involved.
Inniss returns to the US federal court in June but it is understood his attorneys are now working towards expediting the matter before that time following the withdrawal of the specified charge against him.