Former government minister Donville Inniss today maintained his innocence of bribery and money laundering charges brought against him in the United States. He pledged, not to be part of the “media circus” in his homeland that was attempting to adjudicate his case in the court of public opinion.
Speaking for the first time publicly on the charges brought against him just after last year’s general election, Inniss told Barbados TODAY that despite the several stories on his case carried in sections of the local media, no journalist had previously sought to speak to him on the issue despite the fact that all his contact numbers and email addresses remained the same as when he was a Cabinet minister.
“I note with interest and intrigue the comments being made, some attributed to the prosecutor side here [USA], and some incurred by journalists and others, and I will not comment in any great detail on them. Suffice to say that no one bribed me to award any contracts. I certainly was not in a position to award any contracts anyhow. I have confidence in my attorney, we are cooperating and collaborating and preparing as best as we can for the trial,” he said.
Inniss explained that since his matter had been so continuously and publicly slanted in the local media, unlike what occurs when cases are brought against other individuals, there were persons in Barbados who could be helpful to his case but were fearful of “setting foot in the United States”.
“ . . . Because there is a fear that they too would be arrested and charged by the US authorities for something. And these are decent, law-abiding individuals as well. But I can’t quarrel with them for having that fear. I don’t know that the fear is justified, but on the other hand, I have been with the US system now for many years and I have become accustomed to some things about it, unlike the average person in Barbados.
But it speaks volumes when law-abiding individuals in Barbados who may have had some association with me over the years both in a personal capacity and as a Cabinet minister are now afraid to set foot in the USA, because they don’t know what is lurking out there for them and they have nothing to do with my case,” he said.
Inniss told Barbados TODAY that he had read comments in the print media that he was in dire financial straits in 2015 and 2016. He stressed that those individuals who knew the truth about him would know that allegation was false. He quipped that he might be in that position now, given the exorbitant costs of living in the USA in his current situation and having to retain legal counsel to defend his name.
“It is an extremely expensive undertaking. I can see how that too would affect the individuals caught up in the US judicial system. But I remain very resolute that I am not guilty of the charges that have been laid before me. I will continue my march to my day in court and I have no intention once again of engaging in any public circus on this matter in trying to sway people one way or the other,” Inniss said.
Last August the United States 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) 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.
Two former ICBL employees, Alex Tasker and Ingrid Innes, were also indicted along with Inniss.
However, on June 24 this year the United States Department of Justice sent correspondence to Inniss’ legal representative casting doubt on the strength of the charges brought against him. In mandated disclosure correspondence sent by United States Attorney Richard Donoghue to Inniss’ lead attorney Anthony Ricco, Donoghue revealed that following an internal investigation of the ICBL, both Tasker and Innes “generally denied” paying bribes to Inniss.
Donoghue also revealed in his letter that the principal of the New York Dental Company through whose bank account ICBL was alleged to have routed approximately $36 000 in bribes, had stated that Inniss’ political rivals “were trying to frame him”. Donoghue did not specify who those rivals were.
Last month, almost a year after Inniss had been indicted, members of the Federal Bureau of Investigations visited Barbados seeking to collect evidence in the case but reportedly left empty-handed.