“A case of lies, corruption and greed!”
That is how prosecutor Gerald Moody summed up the actions of former Government Minister Donville Inniss, who he said deceived the people of Barbados by accepting bribes from the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL) four years ago.
Just after 8 a.m., Inniss, wearing a long, black coat accompanied by lawyer Steven Legon, friend and former Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and one of his brothers, entered the Eastern District Federal Court in New York.
Once inside, an upbeat-looking Inniss who was clad in a grey suit, white shirt and green tie was seen glancing occasionally towards them and smiling from his seat.
Former Speaker of the Barbados House of Assembly and Democratic Labour Party (DLP) colleague Michael Carrington, also joined the proceedings during the day.
Inniss faces two counts of money laundering along with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
There were a few hiccups before proceedings got going just after 10 a.m.
The trial was delayed for over an hour after a late arrival by juror 11.
Federal District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto also disclosed that juror number 16 had endured a medical emergency and would be absent.
There was also a brief power outage in the courtroom.
In his ten-minute opening remarks to the 12-member jury comprising five females and seven males, Moody urged the jurors to return a guilty verdict at the end of the trial.
He said Inniss had used his position as Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development to benefit financially.
“This case is about lies, corruption and greed and how Inniss, a government minister, took bribes from ICBL and then funneled the money through his friend’s dental company.
“As the minister he was responsible for encouraging economic development and he wasn’t supposed to cash in and sell out the people of Barbados,” Moody argued.
He said as a result of the bribes, ICBL was awarded the insurance contracts to insure over $100 million in Government property.
“He went to great lengths to hide it. ICBL didn’t pay it to him, they paid him through his friend’s dental company in Long Island who two days later passed on the money to his account in Florida where he owns a condominium,” he added.
He argued that the $16 536.73 paid to Inniss in 2015 was exactly five per cent of ICBL’s insurance contract that year.
However, Inniss’ attorney-at-law Anthony Ricco implored the jury to keep an open mind and not to rush to judgement.
He said that Inniss was presumed innocent until guilty and that it was the burden of the prosecution to prove the accused’s guilt.
“The government is saying something about a bribe, but they have to prove it and prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. This case is about politics 2000 miles away and you are going to hear about a powerful organisation that collected profits long before Inniss came into office,” Ricco said.
“Pay close attention to the witnesses, this is not a difficult case. But if your minds are already made up then this process is wasted. I’m asking for Inniss to start with a clean slate and for you to keep an open mind. Let it come to you before you make a decision,” Ricco said.