Barbados minister’s New York trial moved

Former Barbados Government minister, Donville Inniss.
Photo by George Alleyne

Amid numerous twists and turns, the trial in New York of former Barbados Government minister, Donville Inniss, on money laundering charges has been moved from the scheduled Oct. 28 date to January 2020.

Inniss was originally charged alone in March 2018 with one count of conspiracy to launder money and two counts of money laundering but the allegations were upgraded by the United States Department of Justice in a superseding indictment to include two former executives of a Barbados insurance company, Alex Tasker and Ingrid Inness, as alleged conspirators in the same charges.

The US Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York stated, “the charges stem from Inniss’ acceptance of bribes from a Barbadian insurance company between August 2015 and April 2016 when he was a public official”.

He is alleged to have conspired with persons in the Barbados company, Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL), to pay him $36,000 to use his authority to ensure that the firm’s million-dollar contract with a state-owned company under Inniss’ ministerial portfolio is renewed.

The US Attorney’s Office alleges that he conspired to hide the payment by having the money sent to a New York dental company, then into his bank account through several transfers.

American authorities in January unsealed documents naming former Barbados insurance executives, Tasker and Inness, as the persons who allegedly conspired with former government minister Donville Inniss to launder money in the United States.

Tasker and Inness remain in Barbados, but the former government minister, a US resident, was nabbed in Florida.

His trial was set for June 24 in the Eastern District Court of New York, then put back to October, and is now further setback to 2020.

Reports in two Barbados newspapers, the Nation newspaper and Barbados TODAY, suggest that delays in the trial stem from Inniss’ defence attorney being committed to other cases that could clash with the former minister’s trial, and the prosecutor having not yet submitted pre-trial motions.

A key issue appears to be willingness of an official of the Barbados state-owned company at the center of the bribery allegations to testify.

The executive of the company, Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), is said to be unwilling to travel to the United States to testify, and the DoJ is seeking to convince that person to give his deposition by video.

BIDC, which fell within Inniss’ portfolio as a government minister, is the company that took out the million-dollar insurance policy with ICBL, allegedly as a result of the bribery and money laundering conspiracy.

Additionally, the defence is protesting admission into evidence two cheques with a total value of US$7000 that ICBL allegedly paid to Inniss as a ‘donation’ at the former minister’s request.

The prosecution wants to use the cheques as evidence that Inniss had financial problems that eventually led to the $36,000 conspiracy.

The defence’s objection is that those two cheques were allegedly handed over in January and February of 2015, outside the period stated in the indictments.

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