Prosecutors Sylvia Shweder and David Gopstein this morning convinced a 12-member jury that Donville Inniss had accepted two bribes from the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL) and that he had conspired to commit money laundering.
Their submissions led to Inniss being convicted of two counts of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering in the Eastern District Federal Court in New York.
Gopstein, who led off the closing arguments, told the jury during his hour-long presentation that Inniss had “abused his power” as Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, by taking bribes and laundering them through his friend Roger Clarke’s dental company in the US, Crystal Dental Lab.
He maintained that the evidence presented by the prosecution including documents, witness testimonies, emails and text messages, was “overwhelming evidence of Inniss’ guilt”.
Gopstein told the jurors that the prosecution had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the former minister was guilty of the charges.
He explained that not much of the evidence which had been presented was in dispute.
“It can’t be disputed that ICBL sent $36 000 to Crystal Dental Lab for consultation services which were never provided. It can’t be disputed that the money was for Inniss and it cannot be disputed that ICBL sent the money to secure Government contracts.
“That alone should be enough evidence,” Gopstein insisted.
However, he further pointed to the figure of $16 536.73 that was sent to Inniss in 2015, saying it was exactly five per cent of ICBL’s contract covering the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) that year.
“You don’t randomly end up at the number $16 536.73,” he told the jury.
Gopstein noted that when discussions by the BIDC board of management commenced regarding the issuing of insurance contracts, it was recommended that similar to 2014, ICBL should receive 50 per cent of the contract, Consumer Guarantee Insurance (CGI) 30 per cent and Trident Insurance 20 per cent.
He said on June 11, 2015, that recommendation was made again by the BIDC board.
But on June 22, 2015, a decision was made to award ICBL 70 per cent of the contract and CGI 30 per cent.
Gopstein said this was made after several text messages and emails between Inniss and ICBL’s former senior vice-president Alex Tasker via their personal emails.
He made note of a subsequent email from Tasker where he enquired about the percentage of ICBL’s contract. Gopstein said this was done to calculate the amount which Inniss would be paid.
The prosecutor said Inniss then sent an email detailing Crystal Dental Lab’s banking details. He said this was despite the fact that the company had been dissolved since 2004.
He said two days after the money was sent to the dental company it was deposited onto Inniss’ account.
“He would have sent the money to his account, but he didn’t do that. He sent it to his friend’s business account,” Gopstein said, noting that Inniss had several bank accounts in the US.
He argued that the $20 000 payment made in 2016, was not an exact five per cent, but had simply “been rounded off” to escape suspicion.
Gopstein said Inniss’ plan “fell apart” after ICBL’s former chairman John Wight became aware of the transactions and began to investigate.
In his closing arguments, Ricco said the US had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Inniss had accepted a bribe.
He admitted that while there was evidence of money being sent to Inniss, it had not been proved the money was because of bribes.
He argued that the flurry of emails between Inniss and the BIDC’s board had shown that there had been a vetting of insurance companies before ICBL was eventually awarded the contract.
Ricco said Inniss had not interfered with that vetting process.
He pointed to the testimony of former ICBL deputy chief executive officer Goulburn Alleyne, who spoke of the rigorous checks which were made.
“The BIDC board decided on the 70/30 split after they expressed concerns about the conditions of the other insurance companies which were not transparent and their ability to handle the portfolio,” Ricco said.
He said ICBL was the only ‘A’ listed insurance company which had the capacity to insure 100 per cent of the BIDC’s properties valued at over $100 million and were rightfully chosen.
“What did Inniss ask the board to do or not to do? It went through the vetting process and they followed procedure. ICBL ended up with the better share as they should have,” Ricco said.
He also maintained that the emails exchanged between Inniss and Tasker had nothing to do with accepting bribes.
But in her rebuttal, lead attorney Shweder pointed to the fact that Ricco had not touched on the subject of Crystal Dental Lab, the $16 536.73 or Roger Clarke.
She said this was because “he had no explanation”.
Shweder told the jurors Inniss had operated in secrecy because he did not want to be caught.
“It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he took bribes. He did it in secret because it is illegal. The testimonies and the bank records show it and he hid the payments because he knew it was wrong,” she contended.
“If this money was a political contribution it would have been sent to his bank account in Barbados, not to the US.”