Some Barbadians got a rude interruption of their CropOver revelry Monday when news broke that a former high-profile government minister, Donville Inniss, had been arrested in Florida on corruption charges.
By the afternoon of Grand Kadooment, the final day of CropOver that is marked by a massive parade and street party, information from international and United States networks began filtering in with news that the former minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development had been charged and brought before a court in Florida for money laundering.
The Nation newspaper on Tuesday carried a banner headline of the charge with a mugshot of the former minister splashed across its front page.
The US District Court, Eastern District of New York indictment alleges, “from in or about and between August 2015 and April 2016, the defendant Donville Inniss leveraged his position as the Minister of Industry and engaged in a scheme to accept approximately $36,000 in bribes from [a Barbados insurance company], in violation of Barbadian law, and to launder that money to and through the United States.”
It is alleged that three executives of the insurance company falsified information to get the parent firm in Bermuda to make a series of payments to a New York dental office “which had no actual business with the Barbados company,” and “did not disclose to the Bermuda company that the payments were for the benefit of a Barbadian government official and instead falsely claimed that the payments were for consulting services.”
It is alleged that the payment to the registered dental outfit was an attempt to conceal the final beneficiary of this money, which was then forwarded to bank accounts in the name of the former Barbados government minister.
The US authority’s allegation is that the payments that eventually went to Inniss were to ensure that a state-owned enterprise under his ministerial control, Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), continued with a large insurance policy with the bribing company.
“In furtherance of the scheme, in or about July 2015, the defendant Donville Inniss, using his official position as Minister of Industry, caused the BIDC to renew an insurance contract with the Barbados company (the “2015 Contract”). By its terms, the 2015 Contract required the BIDC to pay a premium of approximately $944,956.12 to the Barbados company and another insurance company,” the indictment read in part.
Inniss was arrested Friday and released on $50,000 bond after the Monday court hearing.
A recent Barbados government document states that BIDC, which was established to increase exports and employment through investment, has had $5.315 million approved in funding for the 2018-19 budget year. It has an outstanding debt of $19 million and accumulated arrears of $10.7 million.
News of this corruption charge against a minister in a former Barbados government comes weeks after Attorney General of the new administration, Dale Marshall, warned of an intention to pursue and prosecute public officials suspected of corruption as far up the ladder as former government ministers.