Alex Tasker, the former Insurance Corporation of Barbados Ltd. (ICBL) executive linked to the Donville Inniss cash-for-coverage scandal, is to be turned over to United States authorities to stand trial, Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes has ruled.
But the extradition has been stayed for another 15 days and Tasker remains on bail while his lawyers are set to appeal the decision made Wednesday afternoon in the District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Court.
US federal authorities want Tasker to be tried for his alleged role in a money laundering scheme that led to the conviction in the US of ex-minister Inniss for pocketing bribes to award government insurance contracts to ICBL.
US prosecutors allege that between August 2015 and April 2016 Tasker conspired with others to launder money in the US from outside the country in violation of US law.
In handing down the decision this afternoon Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes summarized the information provided to the court. He explained that the allegations in essence involved Tasker with others “broadly speaking” Donville Inniss, a former government minister; Ingrid Innes, the former chief executive officer of ICBL; and Kamante Millar, the former ICBL chief financial officer.
Weekes said with the information given and argued before him, “This court has to ask, ‘did Mr Tasker have knowledge of a plan to pay money to the then government official Mr [Donville] Inniss?’
“The information in the bundle to the court would suggest knowledge and participation in the payment of the money and secreting them from Barbados to Bermuda into the United States. On the bundle it would seem to suggest Mr Tasker’s participation as set out there.
“I am satisfied that the bundle would have set out the nature of the conspiracy of the parties by virtue of how the monies ended up in the United States, as set out they can fulfill the terminology in relation to the money laundering on the second and third counts.”
Weekes added, as Tasker sat quietly in the dock: “I am satisfied in relation to the bundle, in relation to duality, that was set out under the Prevent of Corruption Act and our Money Laundering Act, the entire series of transactions as submitted before me in the bundle and the other information satisfies this court that Mr Alex Tasker should be committed for surrender to United States authorities.”
He, however, advised that because of the court’s determination “such a surrender in law will not take place until 15 days have passed”.
“As a result of my decision you have two options available to you before the 15 days. One would be that you can appeal the decision and secondly, the option would be one of habeas corpus.”
Queen’s Counsel Andrew Pilgrim who appeared with attorney Neville Reid on Tasker’s behalf informed Magistrate’s Weekes that they are appealing and invited the court to “liberate” Tasker pending the appeal.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Alliston Seale who prosecuted the case with Senior Crown Counsel Oliver Thomas put forward no objection to Tasker remaining on bail on the grounds that the business executive did not abscond from any of his hearings before the court and was not determined a flight risk.
Tasker’s extradition order comes despite the fact that no one has been investigated, charged or convicted over the scandal or of violating the Prevention of Corruption Act here although the 1929 law was used in Inniss’ prosecution.
Back in October 2018, Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Crime Eucklyn Thompson said that if information was presented to the police regarding allegations of bribery taking place on Barbadian soil, detectives would definitely investigate them.
He said then: “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.”
The chief of detectives added then that the situation was not at the stage for the police to investigate ICBL.
Tasker has claimed that the US government’s money laundering case against him is “based on lies” from then CFO Millar. He recently declared that Millar’s testimony to the US court was filled with “untruths”.
“I did not launder money,” he said, even as he disclosed that he and Inniss had been friends for a long time and had several communications by both email and text messaging.
“In my opinion, I was carrying out my duties. I did not conspire to launder money and I did not launder money. In all my working life I have never received any benefit through laundering money.
He told the hearing: “Ms. Millar lied to the US court.”